Scotia 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.
1. The Ministers Rail Advisory Committee
The Ministers Rail Advisory Committee (MRAC) commissioned three reports from external consultants, as listed:
Study 1 Assessment of Rail/Truck Shipping between Cape Breton and Mainland Nova Scotia (survey of the effects on users of rail service ceasing)
Study 2 Assessment of the Upcoming Economic Opportunities in Cape Breton in relation to Rail Services
Study 3 Evaluation of the Level of Investment required to Upgrade the Sydney Subdivision
Originally these were expected to report in the Spring but they have been delayed and the meetings of the MRAC to consider them have been postponed. Study 3 included an engineering survey of the line which was impossible during the winter weather. The reports are now expected to be presented in mid-July and made public by the end of the summer. It is better that these reports are done well than done quickly because they must provide the information base for fundamental decisions on the future of the rail line. We will update you when we know more.
2. The Port of Sydney Development Corporation
There has been extensive media coverage on the development of the Port of Sydney. The CEO and the appointed representatives of the Port, Harbour Port Development Partners, are highly aware of the importance of the rail link to the future development of the Port. We understand that there has been a meeting between HBDP and CN (formerly Canadian National, the rail operator who sold the Cape Breton line). CN are aware of the aims and container traffic potential of the plans by the Port Corporation, but we understand that CN are not currently interested in regaining ownership of the line. This is no surprise as CN were given first option to re-acquire the line by the current owner, Genesee & Wyoming, in July 2014.
What happens next?
There is a high level of awareness of the rail issue at political and business levels. The situation has moved from Genesee & Wyoming's move to close by stealth. Retaining the railway is an issue of wide public concern. But the process is taking a long time and in this period there is no rail service, whilst the rail bed, track and infrastructure continue to deteriorate without maintenance. The line is at risk of trespass, vandalism and opportunistic metal theft.
Once the three reports are available to the MRAC, they need to be made public as quickly as possible, and used to evaluate the options available for the rail line. There needs to be a public meeting to communicate the findings. We will organise this when there is news.
Developing the Scotia Rail Development Society
The Society was formed from an informal group of concerned citizens last winter which I agreed to chair. Its organization needs to develop so that it can continue to make the case for rail and to ensure public and community awareness.
Communications – I thank our new Membership Development Co-ordinator, Ms Elva Zhou for starting the excellent work to communicate with our membership via this newsletter, Facebook and GoCapeBreton.com. The newsflow will continue. Please send news updates to Elva.
Membership – join the Society. Ordinary membership is free; voting and office-holding Charter membership is only $20.
President, Secretary and Board members. The Society needs new officers from across the Island and beyond. I will be stepping down as President in September as I will be returning to the UK although I will maintain involvement with the rail campaign.
If you are interested in becoming a Board member, President or Secretary, please contact our office. The Board will meet to agree the way forward over the summer.
Thank you for your support
Dr David Rae
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