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Kelowna's railway saga continues

It will likely be another few weeks before the fate of Kelowna's rail line is clear.

Local MP Ron Cannan spoke with Canadian National Wednesday morning and confirmed there is interest in a purchase—but he doesn't have details as yet.

"It will likely be sometime in the first week of February before we know anything," said Cannan.

The rail line shut down last summer after the service provider, Kelowna Pacific Railway, went into receivership; the tracks could be either purchased or removed depending on the interested parties that come forward.

Prospective purveyors were required to file a letter of intent and a pay $3500 fee in order to secure enough details to complete a business case for running the line.

Over the next few weeks, CN will provide some of the information necessary—things like the property tax info and number of cars it can run—and the business case or cases will be assembled.

The fate of several businesses, if not a whole sector, could hang the outcome, the Capital News was told in the fall.

"If you lose this line, you will not get rail transport back in the Central Okanagan," said Barry Penner, a Vancouver-based lawyer hired by Ashland Chemicals to pursue options to keep rail service coming to its Winfield-area yard.

Ashland is part of a node of composites businesses operating in the area, which require effective transportation in order bring in supplies and sell their products internationally. Without the chemicals it brings in to make fiberglass and plastic polymers, Kohler Canada, in Armstrong, would not have what it needs to make its bathtubs, showers and bathroom fixtures. FormaShape: 3D Architectural Design in Winfield would also be out components for its watersides and gas station canopies, as would a number of other companies.

"If one key business fails, so (could) many others as their supply chain is further disrupted," said Marcus Ewert-Johns, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters vice president, in a letter written to Mayor Walter Gray and Kelowna city council in November.

The CME pegged the potential impact at 500 to 600 jobs.

There is also a move afoot to have the rail line removed and the corridor used for a multi-use walking, running and cycling path connecting Vernon and Kelowna.

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