Protesters shut down West Coast Express, rail service in Vancouver

Protesters have shut down train service in Metro Vancouver with a blockade of CP’s Port Coquitlam rail yard.

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A blockade by Coastal GasLink protesters at Canadian Pacific’s Port Coquitlam rail yard has halted the majority of train service in Metro Vancouver, including the West Coast Express commuter service.

A group calling itself Red Braid Alliance for Decolonial Socialism is taking credit for the blockade, citing support of rail blockades and sovereignty struggles by Indigenous nations throughout Canada.

“Blocking access points of trade of goods and flow of capital disrupts the economy. Our movements know that there is a direct opposition between the Wet’suwet’en struggle for sovereignty and Canada’s economy,” Sadie Morris, one of about two dozen demonstrators who descended on the CP rail yard at around 3:45 p.m. Thursday.

TransLink says none of the West Coast Express trains scheduled to travel east from Waterfront to Mission will run Thursday afternoon due to protesters blocking Canadian Pacific tracks on the Pitt River rail bridge.

TransLink is advising customers to use SkyTrain or bus home. The transit authority is offering these travel suggestions for regular West Coast Express users who travel east of Coquitlam:

• Take SkyTrain to Coquitlam Central Station.

• Take either the 701 or the R3 RapidBus from Coquitlam Central Station.

• There is limited 701 service from Haney Place to Mission City, but capacity and frequency are not high. Travellers are encouraged to use the TransLink trip planner to find the schedule for 701 trips to Mission City.

The commuter train serves as many as 9,900 boardings per day along the 68-kilometre trip between Mission and downtown Vancouver.

It’s not yet known if Friday morning service on the West Coast Express will also be impacted, but the protesters in Port Coquitlam expect to be there for the long haul.

“We will hold the blockade until the RCMP is out of Wet’suwet’en or we are forced to move through force … through police intervention,” said protester Isabel Krupp. “We have supplies and we have reinforcements coming.”

The RCMP and CP rail police are attending the scene but there have been no arrests.

Blockade organizers across Canada have said they’re acting in solidarity with those opposed to a pipeline project that crosses the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation near Houston, B.C. The blockades have forced Canadian National Railway to shut down its entire network in Eastern Canada and Via Rail to cancel passenger service across the country.

Coastal GasLink is building a 670-kilometre pipeline from the Dawson Creek area in northern B.C. at an estimated cost of $6.6 billion. The project has the support of 20 elected band councils along the route. All of them have signed benefit agreements with Coastal GasLink.

The protests, which have been sprouting up across the country, are in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who are fighting to stop construction of the pipeline project.

On Monday, police in Vancouver and Delta arrested 57 protesters for taking part in blockades at Metro Vancouver ports in defiance of a court injunction.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority had received the injunction so port operations could resume in Vancouver and Delta.

Thursday’s rail yard blockade effectively cuts off east-west train service throughout Metro Vancouver, which would include rail shipments in and out of the ports.

— With Canadian Press files

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