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Efforts to save Cape Breton rail line chug along

rail signA Genesee and Wyoming sign is seen in this file photo of the rail line in Sydney.By Nancy King Cape Breton Post, Published on August 11, 2015

SYDNEY — The annual inspection on Cape Breton's rail line is up this week, meaning the already-rare sighting of a moving train in Cape Breton will be non-existent.

A Genesee and Wyoming sign is seen in this file photo of the rail line in Sydney.

As it stands, commercial traffic on the line has ceased, with owner Genesee and Wyoming having discontinued service on the Sydney-to-St. Peter's junction section of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway. It had been occasionally used to move locomotives to Sydney for repair and maintenance, however.

But David Rae, chair of the Scotia Rail Development Society that formed in an effort to save the line, said that will no longer be the case once the required annual track inspection expires.

"We understand there were two locomotives that were having some maintenance work done in Sydney and that they would be heading back before Friday, but we don't know any more than that," Rae said.

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Campaign for CB rail about to enter a new stage

SRDS perspective banner tracks

Scotia Rail Development Society: the campaign for Cape Breton rail line about to enter a new stage

The Scotia Rail Development Society held a meeting of its committee and concerned members on Tuesday 28 th July at Cape Breton University (CBU) Shannon School of Business.

The meeting was chaired by Dr David Rae, the Business School Dean who will be representing the Society at the Ministers Rail Advisory Committee at Port Hawkesbury on 30 July. 25 members attended - from the Committee, local businesses, community groups and from transport and industrial backgrounds.

"The rail closure threat has gone a little quiet but we believe the campaign is about to enter a vital period" said Rae. "Three reports commissioned by the Provincial Government are expected to be shared with the Ministers Rail Advisory Committee on Thursday. We will be pressing for those reports to be made public as soon as possible. The reports deal with what happened to the traffic which was lost to the rail line, the potential sources of new traffic, and the investment needed to bring the line back to safe operating condition, based on an engineering study. These reports are likely to hold vital information which the Province will use to determine whether to grant or refuse an application for abandonment by the current owner, Genesee Wyoming, who withdrew all services on the line last December."

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Brief History of Rail in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Railway
By Greg MacLeod

Fifty years ago Nova Scotia had marvelous rail service, but gradually it has been cut back. Rail Services were provided from the Atlantic to the Pacific by the government owned company, CN.

During the last 50 years, railway services were abandoned piece by piece.

In September,1961, the last train operated on the round trip Maccan - River Hebert - Joggins, in Cumberland County. In that same year, the Cornwallis Valley Railway was abandoned.

In 1981 the CNR abandoned the Liverpool to Yarmouth main line and the Bridgewater to Bridgetown branch.

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Groups try to keep Cape Breton rail effort on track

2015 05 01 11 10 26 rail meeting advance2Photo: (© Chris Shannon/Cape Breton Post) David Rae, chair of the Scotia Rail Development Society.
SYDNEY — Focus groups concentrating on the interests of specific communities in the future of Cape Breton’s rail line are being set up as part of the effort to engage the public and retain the service.

By Nancy King Cape Breton Post

The idea for the groups came from Rev. Greg MacLeod at a meeting this week of the Scotia Rail Development Society, and they would focus on four areas — central Cape Breton, the northside, Glace Bay and Sydney.

“My point is the railway is more significant than most people think,” MacLeod said. “There’s special interests in different communities."

David Rae, who chairs the society, said "the unifying factor is the rail … but there are different areas of interest and expertise.”

On the northside, the particular concern is around Marine Atlantic traffic. MacLeod said if the trend of diverting freight to Halifax to transport to Newfoundland continues, avoiding North Sydney altogether, the ferry service could be reduced to solely passenger traffic.

“That’s a danger,” MacLeod said.

In Glace Bay, the interest is around the reopening of the Donkin mine and how the coal it would produce would be moved.

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President’s update

david raeScotia Rail Development Society President’s update

This is the first e-newsletter from the Scotia Rail Development Society. It aims to update our membership and the wider community on the developing campaign to retain the Cape Breton-Truro rail line.

The meeting on 1 May was attended by over 200 people and the Society currently has 155 members. At the meeting we heard news from Deputy Minister Paul LaFleche that any decision to abandon the rail line would not be taken until after February 2016. The involvement of Mayor Clarke, MP Mark Eyken and MLA Alfie MacLeod at the meeting was excellent. There have been other developments in the past 8 weeks, summarised below.

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Why Are We Organizing A Community Movement To Maintain Our Railway

First - It is a moral responsibility.

We must prevent Genesee Wyoming from taking up the steel tracks and selling them. We see the railway as part of public infrastructure necessary for job creation in the future. With unemployment over 15% and one of the highest child poverty rates in Canada, job creation is a moral necessity.

Second- It is a question of justice.

Rail America bought the rail-line for around three million dollars and then sold it to Genesee Wyoming who now want to sell the Cape Breton portion of the steel rails for $15 to $20 million and run only the Pt Hawkesbury–Truro part. That would leave Cape Breton without rail service. The federal government, with tax payers money, built this railway over a century ago. Sysco, with tax payers money, built the steel rails. I consider the rail system to be a publicly funded asset and it is unjust to allow a foreign company to make a windfall profit from it.

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Our Mission Is Fourfold:

  1. Explore various options for continuation of the rail service to Sydney, Cape Breton
  2. Demonstrate the vital importance regionally in order to support the continuation of the rail link to Sydney, Cape Breton
  3. Support efforts to ensure continuation of the rail link to Sydney, Cape Breton
  4. Secure in perpetuity the right of way of the line

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