The temperature outside is rising and so are the number of incidents involving trespassers, particularly with people using a railway overpass as a diving platform into the Credit River in Mississauga.
“Emergency. Emergency. Emergency.”
Holding their collective breath, the crew of a Lakeshore West GO train recently slammed on their brakes and made an urgent call over their radio.
Just moments earlier, while travelling at more than a 100km/hr, a young person popped up on the tracks that span over Credit River, directly in front of them.
They frantically blew their train whistle but weren’t sure if the teenager got out of the way unharmed. At that point, all they could do was pray their colleagues would not have to make a tragic, life-changing phone call to someone’s loved ones.
On that night, those prayers were answered and the person was unharmed. But given the alarming increase in these types of close calls, there’s no guarantee the outcome will be the same if it happens again.
That’s why Metrolinx and Peel Regional Police are stepping up enforcement, and working on securing the area and educating the public about the potentially life-threatening dangers that trespassers are putting themselves in.
While it’s never been safe to climb on the 60m (200 ft) freight train bridge that spans the Credit River adjacent to Port Credit Memorial Park for decades, people have turned a blind eye to the gatherings.
But with Metrolinx now owning the bridge, and the organization’s focus on keeping everyone in the community safe, critical changes are in the works.
While not a new problem, there’s a sense of urgency around this issue, given the number of instances of people climbing and jumping off the bridge into the muddy waters below – and the resulting number of close calls with high speed trains has nearly doubled compared to last year.
“These incidents have a profound affect not just on the family and loved ones of the victims, but also the train crews, staff and the first responders who attend the scene,” explained Transit Safety’s Staff Sergeant Morgan Wilson. “It’s not just GO trains that use these tracks, but there are also freight and other passenger carriers.”
He added those trains don’t appear on any public schedules, and tragically, you often can’t hear them coming until it’s too late. Every year, Metrolinx staff have the heart-breaking job of responding to these types of preventable deaths.
“We know we all have a role to play in keeping everyone safe,” said Wilson. “That’s why we will be out here talking with the community and asking every person who sees something to please say something.”
In addition to more Transit Safety officers and police patrolling the area, the Metrolinx Community Relations team will be out handing out information cards to people who use the nearby park – explaining exactly what to do if they see someone climbing the bridge.
Essentially, treat it as a potentially life-threatening emergency – and call 9-1-1 or Transit Safety, 24 hours a day at 1-877-297-0642
Metrolinx has been working on improving the safety infrastructure around the bridge. Last year, anti-trespass panels (ATPs) were installed at track-level to deter trespassing. And in the weeks ahead, you’ll read more on Metrolinx News about new fencing that will be going up around the area.
For now, however, the transit agency believes the best deterrent is awareness.
The Transit Safety and Community Relations teams will also be reaching out to elementary and high schools – asking them to remind students about the dangers of trespassing on tracks and bridges.
“Education will be our primary focus, but if it’s a repeated offence and people aren’t complying, we will take enforcement action as well,” says Constable Akhil Mooken with Peel Regional Police.
The maximum fine for any trespassing offense is $5,000, however, it’s nothing in comparison to potentially paying the ultimate price; no thrill is worth losing your life.
Read more about the importance of rail safety here.
Story by Matt Llewellyn, Metrolinx spokesperson and senior advisor, Media Relations and Issue and Nitish Bissonauth, Metrolinx bilingual spokesperson, Media Relations and Issues Specialist