Monday, August 10, 2009

Deadline looms for Huron Central Railway

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Communities lining Ontario’s North Shore are racing to beat an Aug. 15 deadline to preserve freight rail service on the Huron Central Railway, linking Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury. A committee formed to implement a rescue plan says any measure would require infrastructure investment by senior levels of the provincial government.

Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.-based Huron Central has said the short line needs more than C$33 million (US$30.3 million) in upgrades to make it feasible. The company, a subsidiary of Greenwich, Conn.-based Genesee & Wyoming Inc., also said it could not continue to operate the line at a loss.

New Democrat Tony Martin, minister of parliament (MP) for Sault Ste. Marie, said, “This rail corridor is vital to all communities in northern Ontario,” adding that Ontario needs “the kind of rail transportation plans that the other provinces have are where the province and Ottawa are directly involved.”

The plan at present requires a “buy-in” from municipalities and rail customers, but Martin insisted the region also needs a commitment from the provincial and federal governments to establish … such a plan.”

But the Ontario Northland General Chairperson's Association believes a better solution, both for the short and long term, is to have Ontario Northland Transportation Commission assume control of the rail line. 

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