Monday, April 20, 2009

Ontario short line could close without provincial support

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Huron Central Railway could shut down by year's end if the Ontario provincial government doesn’t provide capital infrastructure assistance, railway President Mario Brault said. Huron Central has sought funding since 2006.

Canadian Parliament member Tony Martin says a strong case can be madefor infrastructure investment to aid the line. "This is a project that is shovel ready and will contribute to the profitability of rolling stock operators in our area," Martin said. "If we lose Huron Central, then we lose the potential for passenger service to be there and it will have adetrimental impact on our Northern Ontario industries."

Huron Central Railway, roughly 190 miles in length, links Ontario’s Sudbury with Sault Ste. Marie, the latter bordering its U.S. namesake city in Michigan. Prior to 1997, Canadian Pacific operated the line; Grenwich, Conn.-based Genessee & Wyoming, Inc., is the current parent of the short line.

Huron Central estimates that approximately C$33 million (US$26.7 million) is required to rehabilitate the route. The federal government has said it will contribute its share of infrastructure funding if the province matches the funding.

But so far Ontario hasn’t made any commitment to Huron Central or to the province’s short line industry in general. "Huron Central is just one of the many short lines that will disappear if infrastructure investment isn't made very, very soon," Brault said. "That's the fate we're facing if we don't get some help."

Brault said that Quebec, partnering with the federal government, last year agreed to provide C$75 million (about US$61 million) in short line rail assistance within that province.