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B.C. Rail for sale: Liberals

VICTORIA, B.C. -- Hot on the heels of an announcement privatizing the Coquihalla Hwy, the B.C. Liberals have announ...

VICTORIA, B.C. — Hot on the heels of an announcement privatizing the Coquihalla Hwy, the B.C. Liberals have announced B.C. Rail is also up for grabs.

The Crown Corporation has shied away from the freight hauling business recently, but Transportation Minister, Judith Reid, says the privatization of the railway will revitalize its operations. The rail bed, right-of-way and tracks will remain the property of the province, but a private-sector investor will take over the operations and management of the railway, Reid announced yesterday.

"Northern communities have clearly told us that changes are needed to improve services, restore BC Rail’s competitiveness and generate new investments in a way that’s sustainable for taxpayers," Reid said. "The new model responds to the concerns we have heard about BC Rail and the requests for improvements. It will revitalize services, provide new opportunities for rail-dependent customers and communities and support economic growth for our province."

It’s almost a certainty that B.C. Rail will expand its freight hauling business, since Reid said the new arrangement, among other things, will result in "improved ability to get B.C. products to markets throughout North America and beyond."

The B.C. NDP party was quick to criticize the Liberals, calling the move a violation of an election promise to retain control of B.C. Rail.

“This government has been spreading misinformation about B.C. Rail in a desperate attempt to weasel its way out of the premier’s election promise,” NDP leader, Joy MacPhail told local media.

She went on to say the move was highly-suspicious, since Canadian National (CN) Railway has donated more than $36,000 to the B.C. Liberals last year alone. CN has already hinted it would be interested in running B.C. Rail if it was put on the block.

Reid says B.C. Rail has cost taxpayers millions of dollars, necessitating a major change. A request for proposals is expected to be announced today. The province expects to have an agreement in place by the end of the year.

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