|CN's Hythe/Dawson Creek line nears start-up date|
|June 7, 2005
North-western Alberta's only rail link into British Columbia has completed its reconstruction and will soon begin shaking off nearly
a decade of rust to the glee of local municipalities.
CN has spent nearly $4 million over the last year to fix the once-abandoned 74 kilometres of rail line, situated between Hythe and
Dawson Creek, as part of its $1 billion takeover of B.C. Rail. After some early concerns the overhauling of 17 bridges and
replacement of 1,000 railway ties along the stretch of line would not be completed by its May 31 construction deadline, CN
spokesman Graham Dallas says a stretch of warm spring weather has helped crews to get back on schedule.
It is anticipated that Savage Alberta Railway, formerly Alberta RailNet, will operate the trains that will run on this section of track,
which interchanges with the Savage line at Hythe, Alberta.
CAW National Council 4000 represents Conductors and Locomotive Engineers at Savage.
"The work to bring the railroad back up to code looks like it will make deadline and put us in a good position to reopen it for
business soon," says Dallas. "But we don't yet know the exact start-up date for the line or the exact amount or type of traffic the
line will carry."
CN corporate vice-president Dave Edison has previously stated the rail powerhouse is confident the company's multimillion-dollar
investment in the line will pay off as industry in north-western Alberta continues its rapid industrial growth.
Edison, industry experts, and municipal leaders are all projecting the reopening of the line - combined with the construction of a
new multimillion-dollar container port in Prince Rupert - will cause a rail renaissance throughout the region.
County economic development officer Walter Paszkowski says a rebuilt connector to B.C. and renewed rail services are key to
shipping more local goods overseas. "The rail line will reopen business opportunities and better connect local products to the
rest of the world," says Paszkowski, a former Alberta cabinet minister and Port of Prince Rupert board member.
"It should also see a boom in local containerization efforts that will lead to significant benefits to area producers." Being able to
ship containerized goods to the northern port is expected to save north-western Alberta businesses millions due to shipping
distances being 320 kilometres shorter to Prince Rupert than the current destination of Vancouver. Sailing times are also 1 1/2
days quicker to Asian markets through Prince Rupert.
The ability to ship to Prince Rupert will also allow producers to avoid increasing congestion delays at the Port of Vancouver.
Paszkowski also hopes the rail line reopening will convince the provincial and federal governments to fund a new $3.8-million
satellite container depot he wants built in or near Grande Prairie.
The proposed depot - which may also be built in Peace River, Fairview, Dawson Creek or Prince George - is expected to help
spur a much-needed containerization movement.
Containerization is a system of freight transport that allows packaged, finished goods to be loaded more easily on container
ships, freight trains, and transport trucks because they come in only two sizes and remain closed until arriving at their final
Paszkowski says with nearly 84 per cent of Canadian malt and barley, and 85 per cent of wood products now moving by
container, it is important for local businesses to follow suit.
"Containerization will help increase the value and desirability of our products, and also help create and keep processing jobs
locally," he says.
Increased movement of grass seed, pony oats, specialized wood products, sulphur and peas are just a few local products
expected to see enhanced exports through containerization.
The projected increase in shipping demands from north-western Alberta over the next decade are so great, Prince Rupert officials
have stated the region alone will provide enough additional traffic to justify building a new container facility, an estimated 100,000
containers shipped yearly, and create up to 100 new rail-related jobs throughout B.C.
Dawson Creek Mayor Wayne Dahlen says there is no doubt getting the line back on track will help boost business in both B.C.
"It's important for businesses on both sides of the border to open up the northwest corridor and this is a big step in that
direction," says Dahlen, who is hoping to land the container depot for his community in hopes of turning Dawson Creek into a rail
"The reopening is going to really benefit communities in B.C. and Alberta by bringing in new jobs, new infrastructure and a new
way of making our northern communities stronger."
Source: Herald-Tribune staff
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