KPR shortline in receivership | CN will serve Campbell Creek, Vernon, Lumby Junction and Lumby, B.C.
Canadian National Railway plans to launch a new freight service on 150 kilometres of track in central British Columbia.
CN announced Sept 26 that it will offer service on track that was previously operated by bankrupt short-line company Kelowna Pacific Railway.
KPR entered an agreement to lease the rail facilities from CN in 1999.
A news release issued by CN said KPR entered receivership earlier this year and has since halted operations.
Earlier this week, CN reached an agreement with KPR’s trustee to take it out of the bankruptcy process.
CN has also reached agreements with the line’s main customer, Tolko Industries Ltd., and labour groups representing the line’s workers, which include 35 locomotive engineers, conductors and track maintenance workers.
CN will resume service on 75 percent of the rail network previously operated by KPR.
“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 sizable capital investment required to protect rail service in the region,” said Jim Vena, CN’s executive vice-president and chief operating officer.
“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.”
CN will offer service from Campbell Creek, B.C., 15 kilometres east of Kamloops, to Vernon, Lumby Junction and Lumby, B.C.
It will discontinue 50 kilometres of track between Lumby Junction and Kelowna, B.C., because of insufficient freight traffic.
The 60-day discontinuance process for the unused portion of track was scheduled to begin last week.
Also last week, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, which represents 3,300 conductors, trainmen, yardmen and traffic co-ordinators, announced that CN is seeking conciliation in its negotiations with the union.
In a Sept. 23 news release, Teamsters said there will be high employee turnover in the years ahead at CN as senior workers retire.
The union wants assurances that CN will replace retired workers rather than increasing the workload of the remaining employees.
The union said CN is seeking to have members work longer hours, perform more tasks when alone and have less rest time between trips, conditions that will affect the health and safety of CN employees.
“Operating a train carrying 15,000 tonnes of hazardous material is no small task,” said union spokesperson Roland Hackle.
“Our members have to be properly trained and be sufficiently rested to ensure the safety of people living close to rail tracks.
“Many of our members are currently on duty for a 12-hour shift, go home for eight hours and then come back for another 12 hours. It’s exhausting and unreasonable to continually expect that.”
The collective agreement between CN and Teamsters expired in late July.
CN spokesperson Mark Hallman told Reuters that CN does not comment on ongoing labor talks.
None of CN’s proposals would compromise the health and safety of its workers in any way, he added.
“Indeed, it is our opinion that CN’s proposals would positively affect the health and safety of our employees,” Hallman said.
Meanwhile, internal memos obtained by Greenpeace under the Access to Information Act show that CN is considering shipping Alberta bitumen by rail to Prince Rupert, B.C.
Internal memos posted on Greenpeace’s website suggest CN is working with Chinese-owned Nexen to ship unprocessed crude by rail to Prince Rupert, where it would be loaded onto tankers for export to Asia.
An attached CN document says CN has ample capacity to run seven 100 car unit trains per day to Prince Rupert, each carrying 55,000 barrels of pure bitumen.
The capacity is comparable to that of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project.