Need for Assistance to Short Line Railways

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus

May 24

On May 23, 2018, our affiliate, Transport Action Canada, sent the following letter to Federal Transport Minister Garneau concerning the need for supportive funding for short line railway operators in Canada, such as the Huron Central Railway.


Dear Minister Garneau,

Transport Action Canada (TAC) strongly supports the call by the Railway Association of Canada (see below) for a coordinated federal-provincial funding mechanism for the shortline railway operators in Canada. The urgent need for such a fund, as exists in the US for their shortline railways, is exemplified by the recent announcement that the Huron Central Railway will cease operations at the end of 2018.

The Huron Central Railway is a key component in efforts by our sister organization in Northeastern Ontario, NEORN, to help create a rail Loop through Sault Ste. Marie to revive passenger rail service as well as to preserve freight service for several local industries.

Sincerely yours,

Bruce Budd, President
Transport Action Canada
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Comments by the Railway Association of Canada

The recent Canada Transportation Act Review report recognized the importance of Canada’s shortline rail sector and recommended the creation of a federal-provincial program to support capital shortline infrastructure investments through contributions, grants, or low-cost, long-term financing.

“Despite similar studies and reports recognizing the lack of public funding for local and regional railways – or shortlines – governments have not created programs to help these companies capitalize on growth opportunities and meet evolving rail safety regulatory requirements,” said RAC Acting President Gérald Gauthier. “This type of program might have prevented the discontinuance of Huron Central Railway. Closure of this railway – and potentially other shortlines – puts safety at risk, increases congestion on public roads and harms the environment.”

Canada’s 50-plus shortlines provide vital first-mile/last-mile service to customers not served directly by Class 1 railways. By safely and efficiently moving traffic to and from the main lines, where CN and CP handle the long-haul transportation, they help shippers connect to the global marketplace.

Shortlines compete directly with the subsidized trucking sector, which has access to publicly funded infrastructure. For years, and most recently in its pre-federal budget 2018 submission and 2017 Ontario pre-budget submission, RAC has advocated for governments to level the playing field for infrastructure benefits. Investments in shortline infrastructure would help to maintain vital rail service to remote communities, improve safety and limit transportation-related emissions. This infographic highlights the environmental benefits of shipping by rail, the challenges that local and regional railways face, and how government funding would help to ensure that shortlines can support Canada’s sustainable growth.

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