Long trains frustrate Saskatoon fire department, commuters

Long trains have meant traffic delays of almost an hour in some areas of Saskatoon, worrying the fire department.

Mayor and fire chief headed to rail safety meeting

Increased train traffic through Saskatoon is causing major headaches -- for commuters and emergency crews.

Starting in January, the City of Saskatoon Transportation Division started timing traffic waits at four busy traffic routes.

The study found traffic was backed up by trains for as long as 54 minutes. Saskatoon Fire Chief Dan Paulsen says that is making it very difficult for emergency crews to get to certain parts of the city.

"As we start to extend the length of trains, the frequency goes up, and we're really cutting off portions of our community," said Paulsen.

While Paulsen says the number and placement of fire halls throughout Saskatoon helps the situation, he says certain communities on the outskirts of town, like the west-side neighbourhood of Montgomery, can be completely cut off.

Longest Waits

Here are the longest waits recorded by the City of Saskatoon since January

Idylwild and 25th Street: 9 minutes, 46 seconds

11th Street and Dundonald(spur line): 54 minutes

33rd Street and Edmonton: 9 minutes

33rd and Warman: 6 minutes

"In particular, when we look at the Montgomery neighbourhood, there's time frames we're looking at 20 to 25 minutes where level crossings are not allowing us to get across to those areas," he said.

Paulsen and Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison are both heading to a national Rail Safety Working Group meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to work on these issues. The group was formed after the Lac Megantic train explosion that killed more than 40 people in Quebec last year.

"The times that are there are not really realistic at all," said Mayor Don Atchison."The length of trains is really something that we have to be dealing with."

"Trains now are approximately two miles in length, and they're talking about (increasing that) to four miles in length. If you go back and look at the history of the city, you'll see where trains have been breaking down, and tying up the entire city, from Spadina Crescent, all the way up to 11th Street."

Atchison says he would like to restructure how trains flow through the city.

"We need to have a safest route--one safe route for all trains to use," he said. "That would mean that the national carriers would have to co-share lines through communities."