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For sale: Cape Breton railroad

By Tom Ayers © Chronicle Herald - Cape Breton Bureau

A Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway train makes one a run through Sydney in November. The Sydney subdivision is up for sale. (TOM AYERS / Cape Breton Bureau)
A Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway train makes one a run through Sydney in November. The Sydney subdivision is up for sale. (TOM AYERS / Cape Breton Bureau)

SYDNEY — Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway has put the Sydney subdivision on the market, but the chairman of a community group trying to save the line says it’s not likely there are buyers, at this point.

The company ran newspaper advertisements last week seeking response from an interested operator that has an application for a licence or is willing to amend its licence, within 30 days.

However, David Rae, dean of Cape Breton University’s Shannon School of Business, said the Sydney subdivision, which runs from Sydney to St. Peters Junction just east of Port Hawkesbury, isn’t in great shape for a potential buyer.

And, Rae said, the provincial Ministers Rail Advisory Committee is still working on three studies that will help determine the line’s long-term future, and a 30-day deadline for buyers won’t affect the government’s efforts.

“There’s a longer time scale for all of this,” Rae, who also heads a group of citizens and business owners trying to save the Cape Breton line, said Monday.

“I don’t think anyone is going to make a move toward purchase of the line before those studies report.

“It would be very difficult to value the line, which is currently moribund and covered with snow. It hasn’t been operated for a couple of months. The physical condition is known to require a great deal of investment to bring it up to safe operating conditions.

“So, yeah, the adverts have been placed, but I’d be personally very surprised if there’s any serious approaches made.”

The railway company and its parent, Genesee & Wyoming, have received approval from the provincial Utility and Review Board to discontinue the line starting Oct. 1, although the company has not run any trains across Cape Breton since December.

Instead, it has offered to truck goods to companies who used to use the rail line.

After the discontinuance date, the railway company can apply to the province for abandonment, which takes at least six months, Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan has said.

The province is drafting new abandonment regulations, expected sometime this summer.

Rae said the community group has applied for registration as a society, possibly as the Scotia Rail Development Society, with executive members to be chosen at a public meeting, likely next month.

The group plans to work with the province to ensure the railway right-of-way is retained, either by the municipality, a community group or some other operator interested in maintaining the rail line.

Rae said the group also plans to seek out potential business for the rail line and possibly funds to invest in the aging infrastructure.

Copyright © 2015 The Chronicle Herald All rights reserved

Posted in News

Our Mission Is Fourfold:

  1. Explore various options for continuation of the rail service to Sydney, Cape Breton
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  3. Support efforts to ensure continuation of the rail link to Sydney, Cape Breton
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