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November 26, 2001 --- Vol. 7, No. 147November 2001

Consultant rates north-south rail link as economically

The "business case" for building a parallel rail link and pipeline.html'>gas pipeline from Alaska through Canada to the Lower 48 have been rated "frail" in a report to the Canadian government.

Consulting firm IBI Group, in a 26-page report to Transport Canada, said it is cheaper to use existing transportation alternatives, making it doubtful a rail link cost up to C$3.6 billion could ever be viable.

But Yukon Economic Development Minister Scott Kent said the study is purely the opinion of the IBI Group, not the federal government, which he noted has so far failed to comment on the report, which is dated Aug. 20, 2001.

Jeannette James, R-North Pole, House Majority leader in the Alaska Legislature, speaking at a Yukon Geoscience Forum in Whitehorse Nov. 20, appealed for more visionary thinking on the railway proposal. She said a rail link would promote development of sought-after northern resources and could offset a southward drift of labor from Alaska and the Yukon.

James said a railway would facilitate pipeline construction, save the highway network from the punishment it would experience if heavy pipe was moved entirely by road and improve the attractiveness of developing and transporting renewable and non-renewable resources.

The notion of a rail link has been revived along with talk of a natural gas pipeline following the Alaska Highway route and got a fresh lift a year ago when the U.S. government set side $2 million a year for three years for the U.S. to participate in a joint Canada-U.S. feasibility study, although Canada has not yet been invited to participate in the study.

The IBI study said that in almost all cases of shipping petroleum products, coal, minerals and forest products from Alaska to the Lower 48 "transportation alternatives exist today at market rates lower than the level required to sustain a newly built rail line."

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