Northern Ontario’s Huron Central Railway (HCRY) will not shut its doors Dec. 18 as scheduled. Genesee & Wyoming Canada (GWCI) reported that it is extending operations until June 30, 2021, due to progress working with the provincial and federal governments to share the cost of the 173-mile line’s rehabilitation.
“Since the August 31 announcement of our difficult decision to cease operation of HCRY, we have engaged in regular discussions with both the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada with the goal of avoiding this outcome,” GWCI President Rick McClellan said. “Over the past two weeks, these negotiations have intensified as our government partners explore an agreement with GWCI and consider our revised proposal to co-invest in the rehabilitation of the railway.”
The company has said it needs C$40 million for the Sault Ste. Marie-Sudbury line (see map below).
“This good-faith extension will give all parties the necessary time to come to an agreement to secure a sustainable future for this strategic asset and avoid the permanent closure of HCRY,” McClellan said. The short line employs 43, and serves Algoma Steel, Domtar Espanola and EACOM, among other customers.
Shutdown warnings and subsidy requests are not new to HCRY, which is owned by Canadian Pacific. Railway Age reported in fall 2019, for example, that the short line would cease operations in early 2020; the article noted that closure had been expected in 2018 and 2009, as well.
General Manager Message
HCRY General Manager Daryl Duquette addressed investments in a message posted on the railroad’s website in November. He said GWCI has “invested tens of millions of dollars back into the infrastructure of this rail line which connect[s] our communities, and the industries that sustain our region. They help to support the local communities and businesses along the line and most importantly, they fight every day for the best interests of the people and communities we serve.
“We are the safest and most experienced short line operator in North America—and on top of the tens of millions of dollars we have already invested in this important rail corridor, we remain willing to invest millions more of HCRY’s money alongside the government. Currently, every train running on the line must be escorted by a mobile truck running in front of the locomotives. While this adds cost to HCRY, it is done to ensure the integrity of the main line infrastructure does not impact the safety of freight operations and the ongoing service provided to our customers.
“It is therefore important to note the issue is not with the operator of this rail line, it is with the infrastructure of this rail line. Short line railways, like HCRY, do not have the access to government funding programs to invest in railway infrastructure, which is our industry’s equivalent to highways for trucks. Regardless of who operates this rail line, the investment is necessary to upgrade the rail line’s infrastructure, which is in a desperate state of repair.
“The investment being sought for this strategic asset from the federal and provincial governments is not for the company. The current request made to the government is to contribute alongside HCRY in a shared investment towards the future of our region. 100% of the investment being sought from the federal and provincial governments will remain in the North, along with our company’s own contribution.”