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Cape Breton railway could fight climate change: Scotia Rail Development Society

Published August 21, 2016 - 6:25pm
Last Updated August 22, 2016 - 1:40pm

A 394-kilometre-long railway line running through Cape Breton could be a key weapon in the fight against climate change.

The Scotia Rail Development Society says the rail link, sold to American company Genesee and Wyoming in 2012, could be a cost-efficient and low-carbon way of transporting goods through Cape Breton at a time when a container port is planned for Sydney.

The society says that if Nova Scotia’s remaining rail lines received more investment, trains would be running at faster speeds and take goods off the highways, reducing road wear and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Nova Scotia’s current transportation system accounts for 27 per cent of all such emissions, according to statistics released by the society.
“What is our public policy on promoting transport of freight by railway rather than highway, from both an economic and environment(al) point of view? Do we have a policy on foreign ownership of public infrastructure like railways?” asked society co-chair Greg MacLeod in an Aug. 20 news release.

“This is a big problem.”

The society said the province has focused more on building highway and ferry infrastructure, and cited Railway Association of Canada statistics describing trains as being four times more efficient than trucks.

Shifting just 10 per cent of freight from trucks to rail would reduce GHG emissions by close to 3.6 megatonnes of carbon dioxide, comparable to taking 12 million trucks off the road.

A train can move one tonne of freight more than 200 kilometres on a single litre of fuel. Despite moving 75 million passengers and close to 70 per cent of all intercity freight each year, Canadian railways produce just one per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“It is time for Canada to step up to the international plate and define the role of railways in Canada for Canadians, not for railway companies,” said society spokesman Jason Morrison.

He also called on the government of Canada to “develop a clear mandate for VIA Rail and provide it with the funds to ensure service to its citizens. It is time for the government to invest in railway infrastructure — short-line and large — to improve the service they currently offer.”

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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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