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Northern communities fight to keep rail service


More than 75 stakeholders from northern communities in B.C. attended a workshop to save the passenger train service due to be cut as of Oct. 31 this year.

According to B.C. Rail, their passenger service was losing $5 million a year, and does not have the estimated $30 million it will cost to refurbish the 50-year-old coaches.

The last workshop to save the passenger train service was held outside of 100 Mile House at 108 Mile Ranch on April 7, and included representatives from communities like Prince Rupert and Dawson Creek.

As a result of the workshop, the participants are requesting that the provincial government and B.C. Rail continue passenger rail service to northern communities until an overall provincial transportation plan is developed.

"It is apparent that the provincial government must consider the special needs for rural transportation infrastructure as our needs are very different from urban centres," said Mayor Donna Barnett of 100 Mile House.

"A plan to integrate rail, air, marine and ground transportation is what our communities need if we are to remain economically viable.

"I expect that the (Transportation) Minister (Judith Reid) will be pleased with the results of our community consultation and that the creative solutions that participants have identified should be a good starting point for our regional strategy."

The ideas collected over the April 7 workshop are in the process of being compiled into a vision document. A delegation from the north will present it to Minister Reid in early May. The details of that document won’t be released to the public until after they are presented to the Minister.