News

Pitch made for CP rail line

MARTHA WICKETT

Black Press

Local governments in the North Okanagan and Shuswap have launched an urgent drive to save the CP Rail line between Sicamous and Armstrong from potentially being chopped up and sold to private investors.

A meeting was held recently to identify ways to preserve the line as a transportation corridor, initially for hiking and biking and, in the winter, perhaps cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.

Members of the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District board and Splatsin First Nation, as well as the mayors of Vernon and Armstrong, attended the meeting, which resulted in Sicamous volunteering to draft a resolution to the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

The resolution states that UBCM should become the owner of these  deregulated rail corridors, and should ask the province to institute a province-wide parcel tax, similar to that levied by the Municipal Finance Authority on property tax notices, to help in their purchase and maintenance.

“We’re not the only ones dealing with abandoned railway,” said Sicamous Mayor Darrel Trouton.

“This is an opportunity for us to possibly have a rail trail from Sicamous right down to the border. Hopefully it goes through, hopefully we get some support from the province and communities in the province.”

A bid to acquire the line between Sicamous and Armstrong became more tenuous when an opportunity was missed during the process that CP Rail had to follow in deregulating the line.

When a federally regulated railway, such as CP or CN, announces its intention to discontinue operation of such a line, they must adhere to a formal abandonment process laid out by the Canada Transportation Act. If no commercial sale of the line to a rail company is completed within the allowed time, CP must offer to sell the line to local governments for a price not more than the net salvage value of the line. However, the deadline for local governments to purchase the Sicamous-Armstrong line passed without an agreement. The portion of line is now in CP Rail’s real estate group.

“There is no formal process once the CTA discontinuance process is complete,” wrote CP spokesperson Salem Woodrow.

“CP remains in contact with local municipalities and we are considering our next steps. Any discussions we have are in private.”

Why the window of opportunity was missed remains something of a mystery. Although there had been a regional effort to acquire the line during the allowed time frame, once a local government enters into negotiations with CP, the process becomes confidential. However, now that the timeline has expired, comments are still not forthcoming.

 

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