CANADIAN Transport Minister Jean-C Lapierre and Finance Minister Ralph Goodale announced on November 24 that terms had been agreed for the sale of the government-owned grain hopper fleet, which totals around 12000 vehicles.

The hoppers are used at no cost to the major Canadian railways for the movement of export grain from the prairies to ports on the Pacific and the Great Lakes. The government has been looking to relinquish ownership, and the Farmers Rail Car Coalition put forward its proposals in October 2002.

Under the C$205m deal, the hoppers will initially be leased to FRCC for five years, in exchange for lease payments totalling C$65m and a credit of C$35m for refurbishment work to be done by the coalition. At the end of the lease, ownership will transfer to the coalition in exchange for a final payment of C$105m, which will be spread over the next eight years.

Final terms are due to be agreed this year, once FRCC has reached agreement with Canadian Pacific and Canadian National over the future use of the vehicles.