Duncan’s Top Shelf hit hard by halt to rail freight

Rail freight on Vancouver Island has been suspended temporarily, with no word on when it will resume.

One of the largest users of rail freight service in the Cowichan Valley, Top Shelf Feeds, is treating the suspension as indefinite, and trying to find ways to continue operating without the train.

"I don’t know if temporary is the proper term," Top Shelf owner Robert Davison said. "I personally look at it as it won’t ever be lifted and rail is gone. We’re making arrangements that it’s not nine months or whatever we’ve been told."

According to Davison, he was informed late last week that Southern Rail of Vancouver Island, which operates the railway, and the Island Corridor Foundation, which owns it, were shutting down service.

"For them to tell us at the 12th hour that we were no longer getting rail cars was in poor taste and poorly done," he said, noting that the majority of Top Shelf’s product comes to its facility south of Duncan by rail. "This took us totally by surprise, especially after six months ago they informed us that any delays due to construction would not effect us and that they would make sure there was as little disruption as possible to our service."

Passenger service was suspended in March 2011 after rail conditions reached unacceptable safety levels. Freight, which can move more slowly, continued between Duncan and Parksville.

SVI and the ICF worked to secure $20.9 million in funding commitments from three levels of government to restart passenger service, with plans to expand existing freight business and develop new excursion rail services. Those funds are expected to be released in early 2015.

In the meantime, rail conditions have been monitored closely, leading to last week’s suspension of freight service.

"This week, after completion of a detailed risk assessment, it was determined that the safest course of action was to temporarily discontinue the freight service to Duncan and Parksville," says a statement posted on the Island Corridor Foundation website.

The service cancellation follows a recent track inspection jointly conducted with the B.C. Safety Authority, an independent organization responsible for safe installation and operation of technical systems and equipment, including railways, under the Railway Safety Act. Safety is a "shared commitment," according to an email from the BCSA.

"It is the responsibility of railway owners and operators to ensure the safe configuration and operation of their technical systems and equipment," said Quinn Newcomb, BCSA spokesman.

BCSA works with railway owners and operators to provide input into the development of their safety management systems – formal frameworks for integrating safety into day-to-day railway operations required for all provincially-regulated railways.

As part of its oversight program, BCSA railway safety officers routinely assess all operating railways, regularly audit railway operators against their own safety management systems, and has authority to issue compliance orders, findings and recommendations as a result of these audits. "We didn’t see this coming," Davison said. "We weren’t advised at any time that we had to look at alternatives. We want to stay here and we want to continue to serve the Vancouver Island agriculture community, so we’ll do whatever it takes."

For the time being, Top Shelf is having to transload rail cars when they arrive on the Island at Wellcox, and truck product to Duncan.

"That’s a significant expenditure on our part," Davison pointed out.

Just Posted

Old-growth logging protesters block a road on Monday, June 14. This is not the blockade at Honeymoon Bay referred to in the story. (Facebook photo)
Old-growth logging protesters block RCMP access on road near Honeymoon Bay

Police were on their way to enforcement in Fairy Creek area when they were stopped

DAVID VAN DEVENTER
Cowichan Citizen and Lake Cowichan Gazette announce new publisher

David van Deventer has been with Black Press Media since 2014

Island Health is bringing a vaccination clinic to Lake Cowichan starting June 23. (Submitted)
COVID vaccine clinic coming to Lake Cowichan as area numbers lag

Clinic will operate at arena starting June 23

The Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society, which has been operating a treatment centre on land leased from the Nanoose First Nation for 35 years (pictured), has begun a fundraising campaign to open a new centre near Duncan. (Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society photo)
New Indigenous treatment centre to be built near Duncan

Centre will help survivors of residential schools

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Two ambulances and a medevac helicopter are on scene at Taylor River Flats rest area on Highway 4 due to a serious motor vehicle incident. (PHOTO COURTESY MAGGIE BROWN)
Accident closes Highway 4 between Port Alberni and Tofino

Watch DriveBC for updates on road closures

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

Most Read