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The Globe and Mail

West Coast Express to maintain regular service; labour talks defuse strike threat

Passengers of the West Coast Express arrive during the morning rush hour at the Waterfront Station May 17, 2007 in downtown Vancouver.

Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail/rafal gerszak The Globe and Mail

West Coast Express will continue to operate as usual this week, after negotiations between Canadian Pacific Railway and its unionized workers Tuesday afternoon averted an interruption to the commuter train service.

"It's excellent news for our passengers," said Jennifer Siddon, a spokeswoman for West Coast Express. "There will be some very relieved folks on our trains this evening."

Earlier in the day, West Coast Express was preparing for the possible labour dispute and putting contingency plans in place, said company president Fred Cummings. If the job action had halted the trains, it would have been the first time West Coast Express experienced a complete disruption to service, he said.

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Ed Greenberg, a spokesman for Canadian Pacific, said that this agreement came "at the request of the Minster of Labour and as a demonstration of good will."

West Cost Express contracts the services of CP Rail, whose employees include conductors, engineers, yard workers and rail traffic controllers that support commuter trains in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. The workers are represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference.

The TCRC issued a 72-hour strike notice on Saturday, which meant that a work stoppage could occur as early as 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

Robert D. Smith of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference confirmed Tuesday afternoon that as labour talks between the TCRC and Canadian Pacific continued into the evening, union employees will continue work on commuter train services in Canada's three largest cities.

An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 commuters use the West Coast Express train service every weekday, coming into downtown Vancouver in the morning and back out to the Fraser Valley as far as Mission each evening.

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