Deal revives BC rail line

by MM&D staff

VERNON, British Columbia—When the Kelowna Pacific Railway (KPR) Ltd went bankrupt and entered receivership in July, cargo stopped moving over the short-line running between Campbell Creek and Lumby.

But now a deal has been reached between CN, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), TCRC-Maintenance of Way Employees Division (TCRC-MWED), and Tolko Industries Ltd (KPR’s main customer) that will get cargo trains moving through the North Okanagan region of British Columbia again.

Before its financial difficulties, KPR leased the lines from CN, and under the new arrangement, approximately 75 percent of the network KPR formerly operated—or about 156km (97mi)—will be put back into operation. CN will discontinue track KPR operated between Lumby Junction and Kelowna because of insufficient freight traffic. The 60-day discontinuance process under the Canada Transportation Act will start later this week.

William Brehl, president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, Maintenance of Way Employees Division, spoke about what the rail line means to the local area.

“KPR was moving about 16,000 cars of products per year on track that is in disrepair. CN is committed to bringing the track up to standard and that can mean more jobs in so many other parts of the local economy as more and more goods are cost-effectively transported,” he said.

“I lived and worked in the Okanagan for 30 years and I know how important the railway is to the area. Partnering with CN means saving our members’ jobs and restoring a transportation link that is vital to the local economy.”

Brehl says 20 workers will return to the job as early as Monday with perhaps more jobs in the coming months. Under the terms of the deal, which still must be ratified by union members, these Teamsters will receive the stability of a five-year contract with a total increase of 15 per cent in wages over the life of the contract.

CN executive vice-president and chief operating officer Jim Vena said, “I’m pleased to say that the parties were able to come together to assemble the right business and labour conditions to justify the resumption of rail traffic on the major portion of the KPR as well as a sizeable capital investment required to protect rail service in the region. We are targeting the resumption of operations as soon as we can ensure the track is brought back to a standard to ensure safe train operations.”