A closer look at the rail regulations
Scotia Rail Development Society pleased process is laid out
With new provincial regulations in effect, the path forward for any rail company seeking to abandon a rail line in Nova Scotia is clearer.
And with Genesee & Wyoming, owner of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, in a position to apply to abandon the Cape Breton portion of the line as of Friday, we took a closer look at the new regulations, which officially came into effect Tuesday.
Essentially, the process to abandon a railway line is comprised of two main components — regulations requiring the rail line to first be put up for sale, and regulations outlining abandonment if there is no sale.
The first step any railway company must take to abandon a line is to notify the provincial transportation minister and impacted municipalities of their intention to abandon. Following a waiting period of at least 30 days, the company must advertise that the rail line is for sale or lease, and anyone interested in acquiring the rail line must then let the railway know within 30 days and a negotiating period would follow.
Thirty days after the rail company advertises the line is for sale, it must file a statement with the minister that includes a long list of information, including the net salvage value of the railway line (the value of the rails and steel, minus every cost associated with reclaiming and remediating the rail bed) — a number that Nova Scotia Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan said Tuesday will ultimately guide the whole process.
If there are no offers from the private sector or a deal can’t be reached, the rail company must then offer to sell the rail line to the province and to each municipality the line runs through.
If government is not interested in acquiring the rail line, the company can then apply to abandon the rail line and must submit an abandonment plan to the minister that includes the proposed date of abandonment, and a statement as to whether they will be removing the structures and tracks on the line. If they do intend to, details of how that work will be carried out must be outlined, and conversely, if the structures and track are to remain in place, the company must submit a plan for managing the line and ensuring public and environmental safety.
At that point, the minister can either refuse or approve abandonment, or approve with terms and conditions. The minister must decide on an application to abandon no later than 60 days after it is received.
Greg MacLeod, co-chair of the Scotia Rail Development Society, said Wednesday he’s pleased overall with the new regulations.
“From my understanding of it, I think the rail bed will be protected because the remediation costs will be really, really high, and I think Genesee & Wyoming will not want to take on that financial burden,” he said. “So it would be up to the province after that and I’m hoping that the provincial government will take ownership of the rail bed and then in the future the provincial government can lease the rail bed to any company that wants to run the rail line.”
Two train locomotives owned by Nova Scotia Power are housed in the company’s Victoria Junction railway maintenance shop outside Sydney.