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NWT company may buy rail line to Hay River

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Hay River (June 27/05) - A Northern company is considering buying the rail line to Hay River from its American owners.

News/North has learned that Braden Burry Expediting (BBE) is in talks with RailAmerica to buy the Mackenzie Northern Railway.

An announcement may be made before the end of the summer.

Mackenzie Northern begins at Smith, Alta., about 190 kilometres north of Edmonton, and operates 960 kilometres of line north to Hay River.

In addition to shipping fuel and other material to the Northwest Territories, agricultural and forest products from northern Alberta are moved south.

The railway is expected to be important for moving pipe and other materials North during construction of the proposed Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline.

Formed in 1977, BBE is the largest logistics company in the NWT. Among other things, it services the mining and oil and gas sectors.

A spokesperson for RailAmerica had no comment on discussions with BBE.

"It is company policy we don't talk about acquisition or divestiture activities whatsoever," says Susan Wright-Greenfield, RailAmerica's vice-president of investor relations and corporate communications.

RailAmerica owns 43 short lines totalling 8,800 miles of track, all in North America.

It purchased Mackenzie Northern Railway in 1999 from RaiLink.

Mackenzie Northern, which is headquartered in Edmonton, currently employs eight full-time workers in the NWT - four track and roadway maintenance personnel, two locomotive engineers and two conductors. Overall, it employs between 110-120 people in the NWT and Alberta combined, depending on the season.

It owns eight locomotives and others are leased from CN.