January 30, 2014 - 3:15 PM
VERNON - Canadian National is in discussions with companies interested in taking over the defunct rail line between Vernon and Kelowna, but that’s about all it will say.
Today is the deadline for interested parties to submit conditional offers for the line. In November, CN confirmed it had received several expressions of interest, but won’t confirm if any took the next step of submitting offers.
“We’re in discussions with interested parties,” was all Emily Hamer, spokesperson for CN, would say Thursday. “We’re continuing with the federally regulated process. At this time we can’t comment on the discussions we are having.”
Hamer wouldn’t say how many offers they’ve received or if there were any at all for confidentiality reasons. The next step will be for CN to review any offers and meet with proponents to discuss their proposals.
It’s a slow process, but the fact that it’s moving at all is a comfort to at least one business affected by the closure. Kelly Brown is the manager of Lake Country’s Ashland Chemicals and while he’s largely in the dark about CN’s discussions, their existence gives him hope.
“I don’t know who any of the interested parties are—they can’t even call me to say sit tight. I’m totally out of the loop,” Brown says. “But I have hope.”
The company moved much of its product by rail, so the loss was a big one. It’s now using trucks to transport the materials, but the option is an expensive one and likely not sustainable.
Ashland Chemicals, as well as other affected businesses, are being represented by lawyer Barry Penner, who says the loss could have a domino effect across the Okanagan’s manufacturing industry.
Canadian National took over the line several months after the Kelowna Pacific railway announced bankruptcy and resumed service on 75 per cent of the network. The portion between Vernon and Kelowna would not be reopened.
If efforts to resurrect the railway are unsuccessful, one group is offering another idea for the corridor: a recreational pathway.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014