CN and CP have been ordered to stop regular rail operations between Kamloops and Boston Bar, British Columbia.
Transport Canada issued a Ministerial Order “in the interest of safe railway operations, and to protect public safety for the temporary return of residents to inspect their homes in Lytton, British Columbia”, the transport ministry said in a statement.
Earlier in the week Chief Matt Pasco, chairman of the Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council based in Lytton, had asked for CP rail to pause operations until the risk of fire was reduced.
Unconfirmed reports has suggested that a train might have inadvertently ignited the wildfire that destroyed the town of Lytton on June 30.
“The B.C. wildfires have been devastating for so many communities and families,” said Marc Miller, federal minister of indigenous services. “At this critical juncture, it is imperative that we all listen to the voices of Indigenous leaders and engage meaningfully on a path forward that respects their needs and priorities, while ensuring rail safety and security.”
The ministerial order took effect at 12:01 AM PDT on July 9, 2021, for a period of 48 hours unless revoked earlier.
Both railways are restricted to emergency fire response, and maintenance and repair work for the duration of the order.
Aside from these requirements, trains located on these portions of the affected track at 12:01 AM PDT were permitted to navigate the subdivisions for the purposes of exiting.
“The Government of Canada is committed to supporting those affected by the devastating wildfires in British Columbia,” said transport minister Omar Alghabra. “This Ministerial Order is being put in place in the interest of safe railway operations and to protect residents who are temporarily returning to inspect their homes as safely as possible.”
The fires and disruption of rail service interrupted critical transportation services for the movement of goods across Western Canada and the rest of the continent, CP rail said.
Rail service, provided by both CN and CP, between Teck Resources Ltd.’s steelmaking coal operations and west coast terminals was disrupted due to damage to the rail line near Lytton, B.C. that occurred on June 30. Teck said it rerouted shipments to Ridley Terminals in Prince Rupert.
Teck is assessing the overall impact to customer shipments and/or production, which will be dependent on the length of the rail disruption. However, Teck estimates, based on guidance provided by the railways on the timeline for repairs, its third quarter steelmaking coal sales are expected to be reduced by 300-500 thousand tonnes.