CN says pedestrians climbing across train extended traffic jams in Regina Friday

This file photo shows a Canadian National (CN) Railway train. A CN train blocked traffic in Regina for up to two hours Friday evening. (Travis Golby/CBC - image credit)
This file photo shows a Canadian National (CN) Railway train. A CN train blocked traffic in Regina for up to two hours Friday evening. (Travis Golby/CBC - image credit)

Canadian National (CN) Railway is apologizing after one of its trains stopped in the middle of Regina Friday evening, blocking traffic through much of the city for more than an hour.

The train was leaving the city when it had to stop for "operational reasons," a CN spokesperson told CBC News in an email. But then pedestrians started disregarding the safety arms barring traffic from the train tracks and climbing through the cars to continue on their way, the spokesperson said.

The rail company needed to ensure nobody was on the train or tracks before it could move again, which extended the delay, they said.

"CN would like to apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused," they said.

The train blocked much of the city, including two of the major thoroughfares: Albert and Broad streets.

CBC News asked CN how long the train was parked Friday evening, but it did not immediately respond.

Shortly before 5:30 p.m. CST, the Regina Police Service (RPS) received a request to help the CN police with people walking across the train, an RPS spokesperson told CBC News.

RPS sent a cruiser to Albert Street and First Avenue and officers cleared the tracks of pedestrians, the spokesperson said, but then other reports of more pedestrians at other railway crossings came in.

The train finally moved around 6:30 p.m. CST, once CN could confirm that all crossings through Regina were clear and the train could move on safely, the spokesperson said.

RPS acknowledged the delay likely caused "tremendous frustration" Friday evening, but said on the other hand, it prevented people from potentially being killed because of their own impatience.

For years, residents have endured traffic jams as a result of the train tracks that run through the city — including an instance in 2018 when a train was stopped for an hour-and-a-half in the Eastview area.

But Paul Carlson said he had never seen a disruption like Friday's.

Carlson was traveling north on Broad Street, on his way to pick up his son from daycare, when he pulled up to the congestion. He was so far back, he couldn't see the train and assumed there had been a collision of some kind.

"By the time I was near the tracks, [traffic] was probably backed up all the way through downtown," Carlson said.

The commute to the daycare and back usually takes about 30 minutes, he said, adding that he was only about two blocks away from the facility when he got stuck in traffic.

On Friday the trip took two hours, he said.

The city started looking at the issue decades ago, but former mayor Michael Fougere renewed the effort in 2018, proposing the city consider relocating the Ring Road train tracks.

A feasibility study was completed in 2019 and city council eventually voted to move the tracks.

Last April, the city hired Stantec Consulting Ltd. to explore the preliminary design and cost of relocating the rail lines crossing Ring Road, according to a city news release.

A recommendation report is expected to be delivered to council some time this year, the release says.

As a resident, Carlson is frustrated that there has still been no action taken on this issue.

"We're a capital city and it looks bad when you've got trains making the entire city at a standstill, because of one issue," he said.

"It just reflects badly on us."