On track

Lo­cal group con­tin­ues fight to keep Cape Bre­ton rail­way.

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY NANCY KING nk­ing@ cb­post. com

Fo­cus groups con­cen­trat­ing on the in­ter­ests of spe­cific com­mu­ni­ties in the fu­ture of Cape Bre­ton’s rail line are be­ing set up as part of the ef­fort to en­gage the public and re­tain the ser­vice.

The idea for the groups came from Rev. Greg MacLeod at a meet­ing this week of the Sco­tia Rail De­vel­op­ment So­ci­ety, and they would fo­cus on four ar­eas — cen­tral Cape Bre­ton, the north­side, Glace Bay and Syd­ney.

“My point is the rail­way is more sig­nif­i­cant than most peo­ple think,” MacLeod said. “There’s spe­cial in­ter­ests in dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties.”

David Rae, who chairs the so­ci­ety, said “the uni­fy­ing fac­tor is the rail … but there are dif­fer­ent ar­eas of in­ter­est and ex­per­tise.”

On the north­side, the par­tic­u­lar con­cern is around Marine At­lantic traf­fic. MacLeod said if the trend of di­vert­ing freight to Hal­i­fax to trans­port to New­found­land con­tin­ues, avoid­ing North Syd­ney al­to­gether, the ferry ser­vice could be re­duced to solely pas­sen­ger traf­fic.

“That’s a dan­ger,” MacLeod said.

In Glace Bay, the in­ter­est is around the re­open­ing of the Donkin mine and how the coal it would pro­duce would be moved.

“If they move the coal by truck through Glace Bay … it will wear down the roads, con­ges­tion, so it makes more sense to ship the coal by rail,” MacLeod said.

In the Syd­ney area, the con­cern is that the loss of rail ser­vice will kill the dream of port de­vel­op­ment.

“There’s a real aware­ness now that the fu­ture of the rail line is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to the fu­ture de­vel­op­ment of the port at Syd­ney, and what­ever role that the Donkin mine traf­fic and the ( Marine At­lantic) ferry traf­fic, these to­gether would form the ba­sis of very good traf­fic flows to a mod­ern­ized rail line,” Rae said.

More than 25 peo­ple — in­clud­ing lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives of busi­nesses, com­mu­nity groups and peo­ple with trans­port and in­dus­try back­grounds — at­tended a meet­ing of the Sco­tia Rail De­vel­op­ment So­ci­ety this week, in ad­vance of a meet­ing to­day of the min­is­ter’s rail ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee at Port Hawkes- bury. Rae is not a mem­ber of that group, but he has been in­vited to give a pre­sen­ta­tion on the work of the so­ci­ety.

“Peo­ple are re­ally con­cerned be­cause they see the im­por­tance of the rail line in terms of the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, the eco­nomic fu­ture of Syd­ney and Cape Bre­ton,” Rae said. “They rec­og­nize that we’re at a very im­por­tant time, and un­less the right de­ci­sions are made the rail line could still be lost.”

The min­is­ter’s com­mit­tee is ex­pected to re­ceive re­ports out­lin­ing what hap­pened to lost rail line traf­fic, po­ten­tial sources of new traf­fic and the in­vest­ment that will be needed to bring the line back to safe op­er­at­ing con­di­tion.

The re­ports are likely to in- clude in­for­ma­tion that the province could use to de­ter­mine whether to grant an ap­pli­ca­tion for aban­don­ment by the cur­rent line owner, Ge­ne­see Wy­oming, which with­drew rail ser­vice on the line in De­cem­ber.

“We’ll be ask­ing for them to be re­leased for public ac­cess as soon as pos­si­ble,” Rae said. “I think the com­mit­tee will want to look at them, and ob­vi­ously the min­is­ter and his staff will want to look at them care­fully.”

Rae added that it’s his un­der­stand­ing the in­ten­tion was to re­lease them by the end of the sum­mer. Once that hap­pens, the so­ci­ety in­tends to hold a public meet­ing.

CAPE BRE­TON POST

A file photo of the Cape Bre­ton and Cen­tral Nova Sco­tia’s rail oper­a­tions off Ferry Street in north end Syd­ney. The Sco­tia Rail De­vel­op­ment So­ci­ety is set­ting up fo­cus groups con­cen­trat­ing on the in­ter­ests of spe­cific com­mu­ni­ties in the fu­ture of Cape Bre­ton’s rail line.

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