British Columbia

Sleep-depriving train whistles leave Kamloops residents steaming mad

Some residents of Kamloops, B.C., say they're losing sleep because of frequent train whistles blasting through their neighbourhood day and night. CN says it must blast whistles because tracks are unfenced. Upgrades would cost the city at least $1.2 million.

CN says it must blast whistles because tracks are unfenced, upgrades would cost at least $1.2M

Residents of a Kamloops neighbourhood say increased train traffic from CN Rail's coal-hauling operations is keeping them awake at night. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Some residents in Kamloops, B.C., say they're losing sleep because of frequent train whistles blasting through their neighbourhood day and night.

The complaints come as rail traffic has increased along tracks at Lorne Street, a CN Rail line that until recently was used only infrequently, primarily by tourist trains.

That changed, however, after CN received a contract to transport coal from mining operations throughout B.C.'s Interior and north to shipping ports in North Vancouver, using the Lorne Street line.

Now residents say they are being blasted with loud whistles day and night as between 10 and 12 trains drive through their neighbourhood every 24 hours.

Fred Baxter, who lives in a townhouse near the tracks, says the whistles are affecting his ability to properly sleep at night. He says hundreds of his neighbours are also facing the same problem.

"I awoke about four times [last night] listening to train whistles," he told CBC Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce. 

"Four to five trains every night, seven days a week, 365 days of the year... It deprives your sleep and sleep deprivation in a chronic form has the potential to impact people's health."

Because the Lorne Street train crossings in Kamloops B.C. are unfenced and don't have gates, CN is required by federal law to blast additional whistles to warn people to stay off the tracks. (Rob Polson/CBC)

CN Rail spokesperson Jonathan Abecassis told CBC News federal rules govern when and how often train crews must blow their whistle when passing through a community or over roads.

Because the tracks in Kamloops don't have fencing, and many crossings have no gates, more whistles are required in order to alert people when a train is coming so they stay off the tracks.

For that to change, Abecassis said it is up to the city to put additional safety measures.

Mayor Ken Christian says while controlled crossing gates have already been added to some sections of the track, building additional measures such as warning lights, fencing and alarms would cost at least $1.2 million and take several years to complete.

He also said people who own homes and live near the tracks should expect some level of noise.

"I mean, you have a full coal train rumbling by your house," he said. "You have the ding, ding, ding bells for the full length of time that train is blocking the crossing. The real problem is not the whistle blasting or the crossing type. It's the fact that there are trains on there when there weren't before."

Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said while he is sympathetic to residents' complaints, he says they have to expect some level of noise when they buy houses close to train tracks. (Rob Polson/CBC)

Christian said the city is exploring other options to reduce the noise such as changing travel schedules so whistles aren't blasting in the middle of the night or adding noise-barriers in certain neigbourhoods.

A public meeting to discuss the issue is planned for March 10.

Baxter said his priority is to have the whistles stop altogether. He has started a petition and gathered close to 1,200 signatures asking the city to take steps to stop the noise.

"We're asking the city to take a leadership role," he said.


Marcella Bernardo

CBC Kamloops

Marcella Bernardo is a reporter/editor for CBC News based in Kamloops.

With files from Jennifer Chrumka and Daybreak South