Cape Breton railway’s future focus of public meeting Friday
By Chris Shannon - © Cape Breton Post
SYDNEY - David Rae still believes there’s hope to save the railway in Cape Breton, but first people need to be better informed.
A public meeting of the newly formed Scotia Rail Development Society will be held Friday in Sydney.
Rae, who is the dean of the Shannon School of Business at Cape Breton University, said the society will give the public an update on the latest developments with the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway.
Its parent company, Genesee and Wyoming Inc., plans to file an application with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to abandon the Cape Breton section of the line in October.
The community group is looking at options to keep the rail line operating.
“We want to give people an opportunity to have a voice. If they choose to join our group it will strengthen our voice in making the case for rail for future development of the Cape Breton economy,” Rae said Tuesday.
He said not much information has trickled out of Nova Scotia Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan’s railway advisory committee since it was formed last fall. Rae, who sits on the committee, will provide an update at the meeting.
It's scheduled to begin at noon at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion. Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke will chair the two-hour session.
The meeting will include a panel discussion on the impact a rail closure would have on the region.
Panel guests include Marine Atlantic assistant general manager Jamie Gouthro, Business Cape Breton CEO Eileen Lannon Oldford, Cape Breton Partnership president and CEO Keith MacDonald and Rev. Greg MacLeod of CBU’s Tompkins Institute.
With the very real possibility of the island losing the railway, Rae said the public should show its support for the society and government’s efforts in maintaining the line for economic development purposes.
Without it, opportunities for the port of Sydney become fewer, he noted.
“The development of a working harbour is really dependent on having a rail line that’s open and fit to carry freight transport.”
The railway hasn’t moved freight cars on the line since late December. In a decision by the UARB in January, the railway was ordered to deliver goods by rail if it’s “reasonably required by a shipper who is willing to pay a reasonable rate for the service” as the operation is wound down.
Many of the 13 former customers of the railway are now using trucking companies to have materials shipped to their facilities because Genesee and Wyoming was charging rates as high as $20,000 per rail car.
Genesee and Wyoming has repeatedly stated it needs to transport 10,000 cars per year to break even. It claims it only hauled 500 cars across Cape Breton in 2013.
IF YOU GO
What: Scotia Rail Development Society community meeting
Date: Friday, May 1
Time: 12-2 p.m.
Place: Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion, Sydney
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