Rail service gets back on track

Canadian National will resume operations on 97 miles of track

The trains will be running again.

Canadian National will resume operations on 97 miles of track running from Campbell Creek, 10 miles east of Kamloops, to Vernon and Lumby. It had been operated by bankrupt short-line Kelowna Pacific Railway.

“It’s a strong sign of confidence from CN in the North Okanagan,” said Kevin Poole, Vernon’s economic development manager.

However, Poole is concerned CN is not continuing rail service to Kelowna will negatively impact local businesses because of an apparent lack of freight traffic.

“It’s a regional economy and everything is intertwined,” he said.

KPR, which leased its network from CN in 1999, entered receivership in July and halted operations.

CN’s decision to run the line is based on negotiations with the bankruptcy trustee, the unions representing staff and Tolko Industries., the main customer on the line.

“We are pleased the line is coming back but we had hoped the entire line would come back,” said Janice Lockyer, Tolko communications advisor.

But Lockyer doesn’t believe the lack of rail to Kelowna will negatively impact Tolko activities.

“They have been without rail service since July and Kelowna (Tolko) has done a good job of trucking and they will work on improving what’s occurred there.”

Details are not being released about the agreement between Tolko and CN.

Pending rail service is being welcomed by local politicians who feared that transportation option could disappear.

“It helps out Tolko and other industrial lands,” said Jim Garlick, Coldstream mayor.

Twenty workers could be back on the job as early as Monday, with others possible in the coming months.

“Partnering with CN means saving our members’ jobs and restoring a transportation link that is vital to the local economy,” said William Brehl, Teamsters Canada Railway Conference,  Maintenance of Way Employees Division president.

There is a five-year contract with a total wage increase of 15 per cent.

CN isn’t giving an exact date as to when rail service could resume.

“CN is investing in capital improvements to the line,” said Emily  Harner, the company’s public affairs regional manager.