Western Forest Products is facing a multitude of criticisms and questions from North Island officials over the closure of the Englewood Train.
“I won’t lie to you, I am really unhappy with this decision,” said Port McNeill Mayor Shirley Ackland. “The impact that this is having on the communities of the North Island is absolutely tragic and you are at the heart of that.”
WFP announced the closure of its Englewood logging train on Nov. 7, which was headquartered in Woss, in favour of truck transportation. The company stated that of the 34 positions, the number of employees impacted is likely fewer than 15.
Delegates from WFP attended the Regional District of Mount Waddington board meeting on Nov. 21 where they attemtped to address the concerns.
“We are looking at cost competitiveness as a key driver of our business and improving efficiencies,” said Vice President and Chief Forester for Western, Shannon Janzen, during her initial presentation.
WFP also noted they are downsizing the number of log sorts across the company (125 log sorts to 30 log sorts), and they are also reducing fat trucks (off-highway trucks) from the North Island in favour of highway trucks, before finally addressing the closure of the Englewood train.
Randy Boas, Operations Manager for Englewood, said once they finish working with the employees and union to transition the workers to other positions, WFP will determine what is the best way to honour the trains’ 100 year legacy. The company is also currently developing a road safety plan to mitigate the impact of the increase of logging trucks using the highway.
“Safety is always our first priority,” said Clint Cadwallader, Regional Manager for WFP for the North Island. “I know it’s a change and there is an emotional attachment to the train, but it is really the standard and it can be done safety.”
WFP said its road safety plan includes extensive training for truck drivers, driver safety protocols, additional pullouts on the highway as part of protocols to pull over, GPS monitoring and tracking, dash cams, and ID placards to identify Western trucks as separate from other truck traffic.
Road safety was a concern voiced by many of the board directors.
“I can’t imagine what you could put in place that is going to mitigate the safety dangers of having that amount of logging traffic on our roads,” said Ackland, stating she counted 27 logging trucks on a trip from Nimpkish Heights to Woss.