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BURNABY—The Canadian Union of Public Employees, the union that represents SkyTrain workers and supervisors, is urging the public to insist the Evergreen Line project be operated by the public.

“Both international experience as well as the experience we have had in BC with privatized transportation systems has been abysmal,” says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill in response to transportation minister Falcon’s announcement of plans for a private Evergreen Line.

“The publicly operated Millenium Line, on the other hand, was built on-time and under-budget with future operating revenues going back into public hands. That’s what I would call a model.” The Millenium Line came in at $63 million less than the approved budget of $1.167 billion.

O’Neill urges decision makers and the public to review the many studies (examples below) that have been done showing that privately-operated transportation systems cost taxpayers more in the long-run, lack accountability and have the potential to leave the public “holding the bag” if the system isn’t deemed profitable enough.

A prime example is the collapse of London’s Metronet consortium (UK) in the fall of 2007 when the regulator denied additional public money to completely cover the consortium’s cost overruns. In this case, the risk reverted back to the public at a cost of approximately 4 billion Canadian dollars, left to be borne by Greater London taxpayers.

The BBC reported that the collapse “raised questions about the viability of public-private partnerships.”

The Evergreen Line was initially approved by the TransLink Board, in principle, in October 2004. In a May 2007 Community Update, TransLink admits that one of the factors that has caused a delay in the project is” the analysis (with Partnerships BC) of potential opportunities to deliver the Evergreen Line through a public/private partnership”.

In the meantime, costs have gone up to $1.4 billion dollars and the long-awaited and needed project has been delayed until 2014 (it was originally supposed to be completed by 2009).

CUPE represents almost 1,000 transportation workers in British Columbia, including 700 Skytrain workers and supervisors.

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 Contact:  Barry O’Neill, CUPE BC president, 604-340-6768;
Gerry Cunningham, CUPE 7000 president, 604-219-9844;
Diane Kalen, CUPE Communications, 778-229-0258

P3 Studies:

The Real Cost of the Sea-to-Sky P3: A Critical Review of Partnership B.C.’s Value for Money Assessment by Dr. Marvin Shaffer, Adjunct Professor, SFU Public Policy Program, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Vancouver, September 2006

Public-Private Partnerships in Canada Theory and Evidence :by Aiden R. Vining and Anthony Boardman, UBC P3 Project, Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, December 5, 2006

Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) and Municiplaities: Beyond Principles, a Brief Overview of Practices by Dr. Pierre J. Hamel of Universite du Quebec INRS - Urbanisation, Culture et Societe for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Montreal, 2007

Value for Money? Cautionary Lessons about P3s from British Columbia by Stuart Murray. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Vancouver. June 2006

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