Eugene Nicolov loves his new condo in Pointe–St-Charles, but one big problem literally keeps him up at night: train noise, from the tracks outside his window, sudden and loud.
“You get afraid — you know, when your heart starts pounding because you think something is happening,” Nicolov said. ”That's the worst.”
A few blocks away, Peter King and Vera Granikov told CBC the noise they hear — at all hours of the night, from the tracks a few metres from their house — is unbearable.
“It booms,” King said, of the activity called shunting, when train workers slam one train car into others to link them together.
“It’s like thunder,” added Granikov.
They and many others in the neighbourhood said nothing is being done about it, and they call the company responsible for it, CN, insensitive.
Daily racket 'makes life miserable'
How bad is the noise? So bad, they described it as a bigger problem in their daily lives than the very real fear of derailments. And they’ve seen those before: a CN freight train derailed just outside King’s home on Sept. 24, 2011, causing six cars to derail and one to topple. No one was hurt, but since then King and others in Pointe-Saint-Charles have spoken out about train safety.
They said the noise is literally what keeps them awake at night.
“Living with the idea that a catastrophe might happen, that I can do,” said another neighbour, Peter Sijpkes.
“A plane might fall on my head tomorrow; you and I are not sitting here quaking in our boots … I would not move away from the tracks because I'm afraid of the trains blowing up, even though that's a factor, but the daily racket is what makes my life miserable. And not just my life, hundreds of other people's lives.”
There is a federal agency that could intervene. But there’s a catch.
The Canadian Transportation Agency said it will act only after receiving an official complaint. But that can happen only when the agency feels both sides have exhausted all attempts to settle the dispute on their own.
In Pointe-Saint-Charles, the two sides meet periodically, but residents and local politicians say nothing significant has happened. CN greased its rails in an apparent effort to reduce noise, but people in the neighbourhood said that didn’t help, and that the railway seems resistant to real change.
Montreal public health department to weigh in
Residents hope to get more ammunition for their fight soon: Montreal's public health department is looking at the issue and preparing a statement. The department said it hopes to release it sometime this fall.
For now, “it's very hard to work with the CN,” said Benoit Dorais, mayor of the Southwest borough, “because they smile. They listen. They say that they will do something, or 'it's very complicated you don't understand our situation or all the rules,' so it's very difficult with the CN.”
CN refused an interview with CBC for this story. Louis-Antoine Paquin, the manager of corporate communications, told CBC that CN "will have a meeting" with the community and that “we would much rather wait until then."
Community members told CBC there is no date set for the next meeting.
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