THE GOVERNMENT of British Columbia has shortlisted four companies for a concession to operate the BC Rail network. According to BC Transport Minister Judith Reid, the province will retain ownership of the infrastructure but lease out the operation and management of the railway.

The province is seeking to divest itself of the loss-making corporation, but to ensure that the railway remains in business. Passenger trains stopped running last year but the new operator will be expected to include proposals for restoring the services. Reid refused to comment on possible redundancies among BC Rail’s 1700 staff.

The four bidders are Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian National, a partnership of Burlington Northern Santa Fe with OmniTRAX, and RailAmerica. A fifth proposal was rejected when the bids were reviewed by a government panel. The winning bidder is expected to be announced by March 31 2004.