Parent wants city to look into what can be done about better safety along rail lines; four killed so far this year.



By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 16, 2013.  For Denise Davy it is personal.

She got to the point where she felt something had to be done; someone had to say something about the deaths taking place at the CN rail lines that run through the city.  Denise lost her son Ryan, killed at a railway crossing in 1998 on the tracks east of Appleby Line.

A 2007 Transport Canada study showed that about 50 per cent of pedestrian rail fatalities are considered suicides. Davy said “it shouldn’t matter why people are dying – just that it’s happening which shows the spots are unsafe.”

Most of the deaths along the rail line are young people who have their own way of grieving and leaving there messages. This one, written on a wooden fence board is one of many at the end of Woodfield.

A little digging showed that back in 2005 there were two accidents on the rail line; one in which a transient sales person was struck by a train but lived to basically walk away from it.  Another, same place 60 days later resulted in the death of a young woman.

Nailed to a fence along the rail line: Simple message – serious situation.

It is very easy to cross the tracks – there are no barriers and the signs are a little on the limp side.

A number of months ago there was a break in at a bank and the thieves were able to slip out the back door while the police were in the bank and run across the railway tracks.  Nothing to stop them – other than the alert police officer with a dog that had a good nose.  Those thieves banked on being able to run across those tracks.

In the locations we photographed there are pathways lined with railway cinder stone and in one spot there was actually a patch of  asphalt in place.  That asphalt didn’t fall off the back of a truck.  The railways don’t use the stuff.  The only people anywhere near those railway tracks are crews re-surfacing city roads.  No rocket science needed to figure that one out.

Davy, at one time a reporter with the Hamilton Spectator  explained to a council committee that it is very difficult to get solid data on the number of deaths that resulted from people trying to cross the three rail lines that run through the city.  The police don’t keep detailed records on these accidents she explained and most people see these deaths as suicides which people don’t want to talk about. . 

Between 1996 and 2011 18 people were killed by trains in Halton.  In 2012 and 2013 another four were killed.  Those numbers, Davy suggested might mean Burlington has the highest rate of  rail line death rate in Canada.  Don’t think the Mayor is going to mention that when he next tells an audience how safe the city is.

Davy told council that CN told her they were responsible for fifty feet either side of the railway line.  After that it was up to the city.

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2 comments to Parent wants city to look into what can be done about better safety along rail lines; four killed so far this year.

  • Penny, thank you for this article.
    Denise, first and foremost, my sincerest condolences for the loss of your son.
    I write, simply to thank you for working so hard on such an important issue. An article you wrote “A mother’s passionate plea for action on railway safety” was what brought your fight for improvement to my attention. You mention another young man killed behind the Lick’s on Fairview in your article – that young man was a friend of mine.

    I wholeheartedly applaud and support your efforts, and if there’s any way to help, please, let me know!

  • Denise Davy

    Thanks to Our Burlington for the thorough coverage on this important issue. I agree with them that my MP and MPP should definitely have contacted me by now and yet I am still waiting to hear from them. I am also glad that they included the comment from Jack Dennison who publicly admitted in city council that he breaks the law by trespassing over the tracks regularly. Dennison is not only endorsing dangerous and illegal behaviour, he is setting a bad example for others, especially teens. I hope voters will keep this in mind during the next election.