Further six months needed for Cape Breton rail abandonment
'We have the time to do the work'
By Greg McNeil - © Cape Breton Post
SYDNEY — A standing room only crowd at the Joan Harris Cruise Pavilion was told Friday that the groups trying to save the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway have an additional six months to find a solution.
The message came from the Paul LaFleche, the deputy minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, as it relates to Genesee and Wyoming Inc., the rail line owner, and its intentions to abandon the line.
"Discontinuance is not the loss of potential," said LeFleche during the meeting organized to provide an update on community efforts to save the railway.
"Abandonment or destruction of the line would be, so that is the big step. That step can't be applied for until February 2016. We have the time to do the work to see what the issues are here and if necessary to make a case for the future of rail."
Originally, it was thought the rail company could file for abandonment in October, so David Rae, dean of the Shannon School of Business at Cape Breton University and a member of the Scotia Rail Development Society, organizers of the meeting, saw the new date as a positive development.
"That's good news because it gives more time to develop a solution and its more reassurance that the rails are going to stay down and that abandonment is further away and is less likely so it is more time to develop a solution," said Rae.
LeFleche also updated the crowd of about 350 on discussions the minister's rail advisory committee has had with CN Rail, which has the first right of refusal should Genesee and Wyoming abandon the line.
"They initially said 'no' but it is not a hard no," he said "After that the province has the right of refusal so there are lots of options to come still to look at this rail line before rails are actually taken up and I encourage you to work with us."
The crowd also heard about studies underway on existing traffic, the prospect of new business and an engineering study that would look at the cost of bringing the line back to a safe working order.
A panel at the gathering included Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking, CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke and MLA Alfie MacLeod.
Eyking told the crowd he believes the federal government could still play a role and noted federal involvement in West Coast grain transportation.
MacLeod said efforts to save the rail line involves all parties and that the key message should on the importance of keeping rails, then finding a way to put more traffic on them so that the community can become more successful.
A question and answer period saw audience members ask about everything from costs to repair the line, who would pay the bill for tearing it up and about the possibility of a tourist train on the line, among other things.
Most of those questions could not be answered at this time, but some might come from the studies LaFleche mentioned when they are concluded.
Comments were also made on the environmental advantages of rail over highway transport and cost of damages to roads that could result from increased traffic in the absence of rail.
Copyright © 2015 Cape Breton Post
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