Recent History 2004-2006
By Gary Rusak, 22 August 2005
The rail link between Dawson Creek and Hythe, Alta. has been open for a couple of months but there has been no traffic on it at all, according to a CN official.
“The line is there,” said Graham Dallas, spokesperson for CN on Friday. “We had it back in operation at the end of May. Essentially the rail line is open for business.”
The 46-mile stretch of track between the two centres has been out of commission since the mid-1990s. As a part of the CN deal to purchase B.C. Rail, the utility committed $4 million to re-open the link. Last summer, initial clearing work began on the track. More than 1,000 rotted or damaged ties had to be replaced and extensive work done on the 17 bridges.
According to Dallas, the only thing left to do is find customers to ship their products on the track.
“At this point it is up to shippers to up the rail traffic,” he said. “Shippers have to identify new opportunities to move rail traffic through that line. We are open for business. Shippers have to contact us, and that will have to be the next move.”
There are two major projects that would increase the likelihood of traffic through the city. One is a proposed container facility in Grande Prairie and the other is the port project in Prince Rupert.
“I think the key is going to be when the container terminal opens,” said Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom who also lauded the facility in Prince Rupert. However, both projects are still in their infancy, so the short-term prognosis for the local track is still unknown.
“We have been talking to our customers on both sides,” said Dallas. “We have made it known that the line is there.”
Lekstrom conceded that it is up to the private sector to utilize the new track. “If there is no product to move, I mean there is nothing a rail company can do,” he said.
An official ceremony that was to correspond with the re-opening of the line has yet to materialize.