Deliver coal by rail, not by trucks
What is the hesitation of the provincial government to consider the rail option for delivering coal from the Donkin mine to the wharf in Sydney?
The province seems to prefer the more costly and environmentally damaging option of building a new coal haul road from Donkin to the coal wharf in Sydney. Estimates for a highway devoted to large trucks are as much $32 million with maintenance costs exceeding those of managing a spur line.
The cost efficiency of a new haul road loses its attraction when compared with building a less costly rail spur (estimated in the range of $30 million) from Victoria Junction to Donkin.
Heavy trucks carrying coal everyday do much more damage to the environment (greenhouse gas emissions) than would the operation of a small rail line. And it takes more than three trucks to haul what only one rail hopper can transport.
Trucking coal calls for road maintenance, not only on a new highway but on other sections of public roads used to transport product by truck. There is also a measurable road safety issue when large trucks are added to the highway mix of daily traffic.
Nova Scotia Power (NSP) already owns the Sydney Coal Railway that transports coal from Sydney Harbour to the Lingan Generating Station. Already in the business, NSP owns five locomotives, two of which are at Victoria Junction. The locomotives are part of a fleet of bulk cars owned by NSP.
The rail option for transporting coal reinforces the restoration of a rail business culture in Cape Breton in tandem with harbour development and a container port. The proposed rail spur would also be a conduit for transferring coal to Point Tupper and Trenton.
Common sense and business sense point to rail as the economic choice over trucking. And it coordinates well with the vision of activating Cape Breton’s geographical and natural resource advantages in the global economy. James Guy, Ph.D Sydney