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Stakeholders working to save passenger rail service, lobby premier



Mayors and stakeholders trying to save the B.C. passenger rail service are going to the top with their concerns.

This week they put together a memo to Premier Gordon Campbell demanding a moratorium on the decision to halt the service of the Cariboo Prospector at the end of October.

The group has asked the same thing of Transportation Minister Judith Reid.

But her response has made it clear there is no money to keep the service going.

The self-propelled diesel Budd cars are in need of a $30 million makeover and the service itself looses about $5 million a year.

"We think we gave good solutions and reasons why it should continue running to (the transportation minister)," said Lillooet Mayor Kevin Taylor.

"But that didn’t work so now we are gong to be dealing with the premier."

They are also asking for a meeting with the premier at the upcoming meeting of the Union of B.C. Municipalities in Whistler at the end of the month.

The memo has been received by the premier’s office but Campbell is yet to consider it.

Taylor and the other stakeholders want the service, which carried 81,000 passengers one way in 2001, to be left alone until the transportation ministry has completed its strategic transportation plan for the province.

According to the three-page memorandum drawn up by the stakeholders at a recent meeting at 108 Mile the moratorium would achieve four things:

• it would stop the dismantling and removal of the railroad tracks into Tumbler Ridge;

• It would allow time for a thorough review, evaluation and investigation of the long-term role of BC Rail;

• It would halt the closure of service and break-up of the rail-line into mini-lines until there is a proper plan in place that evaluates the long term role of the railway within the context of a long term integrated transportation strategy for the communities and industries in B.C.;

• It would enhance the climate for sustainability and economic growth in B.C.

The stakeholders also want BC Rail to move their head office to Prince George and re-work its board so that it is more reflective of the communities it serves.

The board is appointed by the government and is currently composed mainly of business people.

BC Rail spokesman Alan Dever said moving head offices to Prince George would not make sense.

"Many of the head offices of the companies we serve are located in Vancouver," he said.

"Our largest customers are based in Vancouver."