The fire department in North River, P.E.I., says it will need special rescue training once work on the controversial 'Plan B' Trans-Canada Highway realignment project is complete, to respond to emergencies over the route's steep embankment.

The P.E.I. government contends the revamped stretch of highway will be safer than the existing route and after getting his first look at the road, North River Fire Chief Kirby Wakelin largely gave it a thumbs up.

"They've really taken a lot of precautions in this area. They have access from both sides of the steep embankment and they have it well guard-railed. But I mean, anything can happen and usually does," he says.

Wakelin said a vehicle could plow through the guardrail and down the steep edge.

While the fire department is trained for cliff rescues, bringing up injured motorists from steep hills isn't something they've done before.


North River Fire Chief Kirby Wakelin says, for the most part, the highway is safe. (CBC)

"There should be something out there that there is more training in. For a deep ditch-type deal," said Wakelin.

He said he may ask the province for special training for his members.

A spokesperson with the province said the transportation department is working with first responders to address concerns, but if there's an accident over an embankment, the provincial hazmat team would likely be called in.

For regular highway users, like Robbie McLean, the issue raises more questions about road safety.

"If I go over that guardrail and go down, am I going to be waiting for the first responders at the top of the hill to get harnessed up and try to get a stretcher down to help you out, or am I better off on the old highway with them pulling over to the side of the road?"

The province said it will take fire crews back out on the highway as it nears completion next month.

The realignment project, which will reroute the highway west of Charlottetown and widen the bridge in Bonshaw to three lanes, will cost an estimated $20 million, to be split evenly between the federal and provincial governments.

The provincial government has said the realignment is necessary for safety reasons. The new route will straighten the highway through Bonshaw, New Haven and Riverdale.