Cape Breton rail needs help: community group

by The Canadian Press (CPSTF)

SYDNEY, NS—Newly released consultants’ reports on the future viability of freight rail service in Cape Breton highlight the need for decisive action on developing in port in Sydney, says a community group that supports keeping the railway.

The reports, released Friday, say the rail line is in need of more than $31 million in track and infrastructure upgrades and its sustainability is tied to the development of a new container port.

David Rae, president of the Scotia Rail Development Society, says it’s time candidates running in the federal election address both issues, calling them fundamental to the future development of the Cape Breton economy.

A feasibility study on the Sydney port’s development is expected to be released sometime next year.

“There is a case geographically and strategically,” said Rae. “But that needs to be recognized and it needs the time and resources and commitment to make that happen.”

Rae said any solution will ultimately require three levels of government and the business community working together – a point of some concern.

“There’s a tremendous capacity here in eastern Canada for things to be slowed down, obfuscated and made more complicated,” he said. “Ultimately things just stop and they don’t happen at all.”

Rae’s skepticism is not unfounded.

A survey conducted for the Nova Scotia government in July 2014 found 72 percent of respondents either strongly support or somewhat support the proposal to build a container terminal.

However, the survey found that less than 20 per cent of those aware of the project believe it will actually proceed.

The survey also found that 73 percent think the railway is necessary for the success of the port project.

Current owner Genesee and Wyoming withdrew service on the money-losing rail line between St. Peters Junction and Sydney last December.

However, the company can’t apply to abandon it and remove the rails until April 2016 under a law passed by the province last fall.