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Railway's plans boost city's hopes: Martin

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OTTAWA -- Manitoba MP Pat Martin said there may be a silver lining for Winnipeg in the major changes coming to Canadian Pacific Railway.

CP CEO Hunter Harrison on Tuesday unveiled a slew of changes to the company in coming years, including the reduction of 4,500 jobs by 2016.

Martin said if CP is looking at major changes, maybe it will finally be interested in talking about moving the CP rail yards in Winnipeg's North End.

"The upside is, a massive reorganization may finally be the opportunity to relocate the yards," said Martin.

The idea of moving the yards has been long on backers and short on movement for decades. Many proponents would like to see them moved closer to the airport and become part of Centreport, the city's developing inland transportation hub.

The cost would be quite big to move the yards and redevelop the site, but Martin said with a new infrastructure agreement with Ottawa in the works, the stars may be aligning.

The other big hitch is CP has never been that interested in even discussing the idea. A provincial spokesman Wednesday said the railway's interest is key to the project.

"If the company wants to pursue this as part of any reorganization, we will be part of those discussions," said Matthew Williamson.

"But right now, our priority for the next infrastructure agreement is to continue our record investment in roads and bridges and new projects including the extension of rapid transit to the University of Manitoba."

It's unclear what the impact of Harrison's job cuts will be on CP's Manitoba workforce. A union spokesman did not return phone calls Wednesday.

Meanwhile, investors are welcoming CP's plan to drive down costs. Shares in the Calgary-based company closed up about four per cent to $96.82 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, marking a new 52-week high.

The most striking change in Harrison's plan will be a 23 per cent reduction in the railway's 19,500-member workforce by 2016.

Much of the reduction is expected to come through attrition as older workers retire and aren't replaced.

Canadian Pacific management has yet to meet with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, which represents conductors, yardmen, locomotive engineers and railway traffic controllers, the union said in a release Wednesday.

"It is difficult for us to evaluate the scope of the decision," said TCRC president Doug Finnson. "We will wait to meet with management to find out the details, and will reserve comment until later."

In May, that group of Teamsters workers, known as running trades, walked off the job for nine days before Ottawa forced them back to work.

 

-- with file from The Canadian Press

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2012 B5

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