Thumbs up on abandonment regulations
Score one for the provincial government. Tasked with drawing up clearly defined regulations before a provincial railway operator can abandon a rail line, it delivered on Tuesday.
Draw your own conclusion as to whether it smacks of a nicely timed shot across
Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) Inc.’s bow. They are the owners of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, which will be in a position to apply to abandon the portion of the line between St. Peter’s and Sydney on Friday.
Not that G&W wouldn’t have been expecting this move. It’s part of a dance. One in which it tested out this marketplace, after buying the line from Rail-America in 2012, and determined fairly quickly it wasn’t going to make a buck anytime soon.
Hence, its decision to apply for abandonment of the line in late 2014.
But before it can do so, a number of key issues have to be addressed including:
– notification that requires G&W to notify the provincial government, municipalities and the public offering the line for sale to a person, railway company, province or municipality.
– how the sale price of the railway was determined.
– access if the rail line is sold to another railway company by establishing a way for continued management of rail crossings so adjacent landowners have access.
– removal where there is no interest by another party to obtain the railway line.
– anyone interested in acquiring the rail line must let the railway know within 30 days of the advertisement that outlines the railway’s intention to abandon the line.
– if there are no offers from an interested person or company, or they are unable to negotiate an agreement, the province and municipalities can make an offer.
– If there is no one interested in acquiring the rail line, including the province and municipalities, then the railway can apply to abandon the rail line.
– the railway must submit an abandonment plan to the minister.
– the plan must describe the work that will be done to remove the track, who is doing the work, and make sure there is insurance coverage. If needed, the minister can force the railway to meet additional requirements to protect the public.
Bottom line? Genesee & Wyoming, whose head office is based in Darien, Connecticut, has a lot of work to do before it can walk away. Work that may well far exceed a fair price tag for the line.
Will the regulations result in the company putting the rail line up for sale at a bargain price? Will any private companies weigh in and make an offer? If they don’t, would the provincial government and local municipalities combine their limited resources to make an offer, hoping that it will pay off some day should a container terminal ever get built? Or will Genesee & Wyoming bide its time, hoping to cash in on the same opportunity? Maybe it even paints the government regulations as unfair and takes legal action?
The dance continues.