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Scotia Rail Supports Novaporte's Campaign: Cape Breton is Ready for Rail

   logo scotia rail 2016

Hon. Stephen McNeil, Premier of Nova Scotia
Hon. Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport 
Hon. Katherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure & Communities
Hon. Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, the Canadian Coast Guard
Jaime Battiste, MP, Sydney-Victoria
Mike Kelloway, MP, Cape Breton-Canso
Hon. Geoff MacLellan, MLA, Glace Bay, Minister of Business
Kendra Coombes, MLA, Cape Breton Centre
Murray Ryan, MLA, Northside-Westmount
Derek Mombourquette, MLA. Sydney-Whitney Pier
Allan MacMaster, MLA, Inverness
Alana Paon, MLA, Cape Breton-Richmond
Brian Comer, MLA, Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg
Keith Bain, MLA, Victoria-The Lakes

Dear Representatives:

Re: Cape Breton is Ready for Rail - Initiative of Novaporte

The Scotia Rail Development Society (SRDS) is seeking your support concerning the restoration of rail service in Cape Breton, specifically, the CBNS Railway portion that has been in discontinuance since 2015, St. Peters Junction to Sydney. 


The SRDS's vision and concerns extend to the diverse economic needs of this region; trade barriers; public safety; local businesses that are unable to grow or start up due to prohibitive freight costs; some that need to relocate to other centres including out of province for rail access; higher cost point of commodities delivered; needless exorbitant cost to the province for the building of new highway systems as a way to address congestion and safety; the ongoing expenditure of public dollars for the restoration of road surfaces due to heavy trucks; and above all, the emergent and compounding concerns related to climate change. In all instances, the solution is rail - a modest investment, all things considered. 

It is our fervent hope that you will agree to make whatever efforts are necessary to make this happen. The Federal Government plans are to spend billions toward a bold green economic recovery from the effects of COVID-19. The shortline will encourage long-term economic growth and support a low-carbon green economy.  

Trucking is the only viable option we have to deliver goods and services. Rail is three times more eco-friendly than truck. The Railway Association of Canada states that a single freight train is capable of removing over 300 trucks from our congested roads and highway networks and that rail can move one tonne of freight 215 kilometers on a single litre of fuel. Given 300 trucks, a modest estimate puts it at 219,000 passes (back and forth) over highways between Sydney and the Causeway compared to three trains hauling 100 containers. 

In 2018, the United Nations warned of twelve years remaining to prevent a climate change catastrophe. Under the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council initiative, railways work with Transport Canada and the US Environment Protection Agency to identify opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Both CN and CP participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project which encourages reporting on carbon emissions and devising ways to reduce emissions. As part of the global effort to meet the challenges of climate change, Canada’s federal government put in place an historic infrastructure plan investing over $180 billion over twelve years which includes shortline railways. Transportation makes up 24% of GHG emission concerns for Canadians. The greenest mode of ground transport is rail.     

Railway shortlines are critical to creating a competitive business environment and helping Cape Breton businesses increase productivity and maximize our opportunities for success. The Grant Thornton Viability Study (July 2019) makes a specific strategic recommendation for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) in order to rise above its dire financial circumstance which calls for the "improvement of accessibility to the region". Rail linkage is essential to the survivability of the CBRM as a municipality, a pivotal reclamation for the island. A rail strategy will link the economic development of the province with the CBRM, the Mi'kmaq First Nation and the federal government.

We maintain that the post-industrial Cape Breton economy requires a vibrant rail transportation system to reconnect the business corridor with the mainland. A rail system out of Cape Breton will substantially benefit Halifax, all of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. 

We encourage cooperation between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Marine Atlantic receives enough truck traffic transloaded from train to truck in Moncton to sustain the railway and being a federal crown corporation and therefore stewards of the environment, compliance with the new green-economy policy would be in order. Transloading in North Sydney again would make all the difference, creating jobs in an area with high unemployment and providing enough rail traffic to reach 10,000 rail carloads. This is not unrealistic for a short-term forecast.  With efficient rail service restored to Cape Breton, more traffic can be diverted from roads to rail, saving the taxpayer the high cost of twinning highways and lengthening the maintenance cycle of existing highways. And this is not going to hurt the trucking industry to the point that they can’t keep up.

Another challenge is eastern Nova Scotia; it is not just an end-of-line problem for Sydney. Considering the pulp and paper issue, the whole line, Pictou County, Port Hawkesbury, Richmond, are adversely impacted without rail.       

As stated in Mr. Barbusci’s 24 June ’20, allNovaScotia article (see below), Sydney’s strategic location as the first port of call in North America and its position at the mouth of the St. Lawrence Seaway will make it a critical player for plans of aggressive transshipment strategies that will connect cargo from ULCVs coming through the Suez canal and from Europe to North America, while significantly increasing Nova Scotia’s trade to GDP ratio. …The combination of port and rail will serve as the backbone to Cape Breton’s long-term economic revitalization.  

Cape Breton rail will position Nova Scotia as a true gateway to Canada and the US, not unlike the Prince Rupert model. Rail will facilitate new European market access for a wide range of local products, overall, dramatically increasing multilateral bulk trade. 

Subject to rail availability, Sydney Harbour Investment Partnership has the necessary shipping lines and port operators in place. The only piece missing is the restored rail. A vast amount of time and money has been invested in our community by this partnership and others. The Premier has said publicly that if there is traffic for the line, the province would cost share for the upgrade. This is on the record. As proud Nova Scotians we must keep our word.

We believe action of our Government leaders will be of great consequence to the region and to Canada’s commitment to efficiently eliminate causes of climate change.

Respectfully yours, 

Board of Directors, Scotia Rail Development Society

24 June ’20 / allNovaScotia

Albert Barbusci, CEO, Sydney Harbour Investment Partners writes: 

The team at Novaporte agrees fully with comments made by J. J. Ruest that terminals on Canada’s east coast are not quite modern enough, or on a scale, to participate fully in the key trade routes compared to the west coast. 

The continued growth of the Port of Halifax and CN’s commitment to rail service is great for all of Nova Scotia. But we think a new deep-water mega port is best positioned for Sydney, NS instead of another province.

With environmental assessments, First Nations consultations, permitting and dredging all completed, and with local community and government support in place, Novaporte is the only port infrastructure project in the Atlantic Gateway ready to begin construction as early as this year. 

Sydney’s strategic location as the first port of call and its position at the mouth of the St. Lawrence Seaway will make it a critical player in plans for aggressive transshipment strategies that will connect cargo from ULCVs coming through the Suez Canal and from Europe to North America. 

When developed, Novaporte will have container capacity of 1 million TEUs in phase one and over 3 million TEUs by phase three. The 500-acre port site will include an additional 1,250-acre adjacent logistics park. 

Our proposed upgrade of the Sydney rail subdivision will reconnect Cape Breton directly to the continental North American market. The combination of port and rail will serve as the backbone of Cape Breton’s long-term revitalization while significantly increasing Nova Scotia’s trade to GDP ratio. 

As a private sector-led infrastructure development project, we have a target ratio of public to private investment of more than eight to one. This ensures there is a solid business case to attract private investment and minimizes government risk. 

We look forward to working with CN, the community and government partners to make Nova Scotia home to the next new deep-water mega port on Canada’s east coast.

Save Our Rail

Posted in News

Our Mission Is Fivefold:

  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
  5. Demonstrate that rail transport is the most affordable and environmentally friendly land transport for climate change

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