The rail para­dox

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM -

Le­tus imag­ine that Rediker trans­port has to use its own high­ways to run its trucks across Canada and the USA. And that Daniel Roy must do the same with his trucks, un­less he bar­gains with Rediker or an­other high­way owner. Ev­ery­body would find this ridicu­lous. Yet, this is the rail­road way and the Lac Mé­gan­tic tragedy is the end re­sult of a mad sys­tem gone deadly.

You are lucky not to have par­taken in yes­ter­day’s me­dia tele­con­fer­ence given by Trans­port Canada. Not of­ten is sixty min­utes taken up by sixty sec­onds of ques­tions and tens of an­swers. The main one be­ing: Why on earth is Maine, Mon­treal and At­lantic rail­way, one of the two (you read right) rail­road com­pa­nies al­lowed to man (as in one) trains with a sole en­gi­neer. The other one be­ing the heav­i­est train on the planet: the iron ore Que­bec North Shore & Labrador Rail­way, which doesn’t cross too many towns dur­ing its lonely run amidst the bo­real for­est.

Lac Mé­gan­tic was built around the rail­road and they are lucky to still have one. Rail­roads are the most ef­fi­cient ways of trans­port­ing goods on land. They are highly ver­sa­tile, they can carry peo­ple, mer­chan­dise, bulk of al­most any­thing, wheat, ore, name it, and from al­most day one: Pe­tro­leum.

Safely. And the more a line car­ries, the more prof­itable it is and bet­ter man­aged it should be. It is the eco­nomic in­cen­tive of all long term busi­nesses to rein­vest in its in­fra­struc­ture to be more ef­fi­cient and prof­itable. We wrote “long term”, by the way. To a limit.

In the case of rail­roads, as we stated at the onset, pri­vate own­er­ship of the rails is hardly com­pre­hen­si­ble, when its main com­pe­ti­tion is state owned. Planes may be pri­vately held, the air­ports are not, same with ports. And the di­rect com­peti­tor of a lot of train load is the high­way. Owned and op­er­ated by the govern­ment; how is a dif­fer­ent ques­tion. Close by, the Que­bec Cen­tral line is owned by the Que­bec govern­ment.

We be­lieve that the out­dated method of own­er­ship of the rail sys­tem mer­its a real study by the Que­bec govern­ment on the fu­ture of the in­dus­try in Que­bec. Right now, be­cause of the ar­chaic na­ture of own­er­ship, the whole of the North­ern Plan put for­ward by for­mer Pre­mier Charest is in jeop­ardy be­cause Cana­dian National will not even look at com­plet­ing a study for a line in the North­ern part of Que­bec. This is ab­surd. And state own­er­ship is not some sort of com­mu­nist plot made in Que­bec: Ver­mont is in the rail busi­ness through Ver­mont Rail.

We hope that the disas­ter at Lac Mé­gan­tic brings a much needed re­flec­tion on the sub­ject of who owns the rails in Que­bec and Canada. And a fi­nal word Af­ter months of be­ing glued to the Charbonneau Com­mis­sion and its gang of mis­fits, how nice it was to see the mu­nic­i­pal world at its best. Lac Mé­gan­tic mayor,

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