B.C. windstorm: railway safety in White Rock questioned

The windstorm that damaged coastal communities in B.C. as it swept through overnight on Wednesday has raised concerns about railway safety in White Rock and south Surrey.

Moving the coastal railway line inland would cost hundreds of millions of dollars

The railway in White Rock, B.C., was eroded during a powerful windstorm this week. (CBC)

The windstorm that damaged coastal communities in B.C. as it swept through overnight on Wednesday has raised concerns about railway safety in White Rock and south Surrey. 

The two communities were hit hard by powerful waves and debris, which caused significant erosion to the railbed that runs along the waterfront.

About 20 trains rumble through south Surrey's Crescent Beach every day. When giant waves came crashing in early Thursday morning, rail company BNSF temporarily stopped running.

BNSF says inspections have been happening since yesterday and the track is safe. The company says it's trucking in 15 loads of big rocks to reinforce the track.

But erosion is an ongoing concern — one the City of White Rock is well aware of.

"I'm quite concerned, especially along the East Beach," said Coun. Grant Meyer. "Council has actually started discussions with the province to address some of the erosion."

Surrey council is studying the possibility of moving the tracks inland, which would cost approximately $500 million. But BNSF hasn't showed any interest in moving the line. 

Crescent Beach resident Roger Annis says he frequently walks along the tracks and has noticed a difference since the windstorm. 

"The change that I've seen along the shoreline and now the damage to the railbed from erosion is really quite noticeable," he said. 

"I'm not an engineer. I don't have an engineering opinion, but it looks like the erosion is dangerously close to the actual rail line."

Annis says the damage caused by the powerful storm is the most he's ever seen.

With files from Jesse Johnston

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