|B.C. NDP protests BC Rail (CN) Crossing Fees
|October 31, 2005
B.C. NDP critics continue to press the B.C. Liberal government over CN Rail's charges to property owners for maintenance and repairs of
The issue was first raised in September by NDP leader Carole James, after trackside property owners received a letter from CN
demanding that they ensure that road crossings and lockable gates are installed and maintained at their expense.
"CN then goes on to say that a charge of $535, an annual administrative fee for this privilege, will be charged," James told the legislature.
This week Cariboo South MLA Charlie Wyse pointed to terms in the B.C. Rail revitalization agreement between the provincial government
and CN, which specifies that the government as owner of the railbed and track has no responsibility for repairs, and no insurance liability.
"When it sold B.C. Rail, the government took steps to protect its own interests but refused to protect the interests of average British
Columbians," Wyse told the legislature Monday. "That was a political choice this government made."
Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon replied that the responsibility for maintaining road crossings and gates has always rested with
property owners along the track, under federal transport regulations.
"It has actually always been the case, except in British Columbia, where we had governments - particularly the previous NDP government
- that loved to interfere with the operations of the railway and would not allow the railway to make the proper economic decisions," Falcon
He added that invoices were sent out to property owners when B.C. Rail was still a provincial Crown corporation, but due to "political
interference" they were not collected after affected property owners complained.
Wyse said the fee charged by CN is the last straw for people on the rail line, who have seen a cut in service and other impacts since the
B.C. Liberals were elected.
"We used to have three trains travelling the rails between North Vancouver and Prince George, and now we have one," he said. "Rail
workers along the line have lost their jobs, and the communities have lost those payrolls. Lumber mills cannot get enough railcars to
ship their products, and the wood and log yards continue to pile up. In addition to this deterioration of a valuable service, the number of
accidents on the rail line has increased."
Source: Tom Fletcher - The Chilliwack Progress