The Western Canadian Short Line Railway Association (WCSLRA) has received C$506,800 from the Government of Canada’s PrairiesCan (Prairies Economic Development Canada) Western Diversification Program to fund a three-year Short Line Railway Marketing Program in partnership with 18 short line railways in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba.
The short lines are Big Sky Rail, Battle River Railway, Oyen Regional Railway, Carlton Trail Railway, Great Sandhills Railway, Fife Lake Railway, Great Western Railway, Hudson Bay Railway, Last Mountain Railway, Long Creek Railroad, Red Coat Road and Rail, Southern Rails Cooperative, Stewart Southern Railway, Thunder Rail, Torch River Rail, Northern Lights Railway, Wheatland Rail and Forty Mile Rail.
The program is dived into three phases and will include:
- Short line sector branding including the creation and implementation of brand assets and communication materials to increase awareness and understanding of the short line sector through WCSLRA (Phase 1).
- WCSLRA website redevelopment (Phase 1).
- Development of website representation and digital and print marketing materials for participating short line railways (Phase 2).
- Business development and marketing capacity building workshops for participating short line railways and rail-served community stakeholders (Phases 2-3).
- Print and digital marketing campaigns to promote participating railways and the short line sector Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba (Phases 2-3).
- Trade show representation (Phases 1-3).
- Stakeholder networking to promote business development in rural, short line rail-served communities (Phases 1-3).
“The Short Line Railway Marketing Program will increase awareness and understanding of the short line sector and promote industrial and value-added agriculture business development on participating short line railways in rural Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba,” WCSLRA noted. “The majority of the carloads originating from short lines in Western Canada are bulk agricultural commodities like canola, wheat, oats, and barley. However, a growing portion of the exports are value-added agricultural products.
“Value-Added Agriculture companies need places to build their growing businesses that don’t require C$6 million of input costs to build loop tracks like those often required by CN and Canadian Pacific. Short line railways are the perfect partners for these small and medium-sized businesses. Since short lines are usually located where raw commodities are grown, they are as strong a location as any CN and CP can provide but require much less initial investment. This program will highlight the advantages of the short line sector for small and medium sized businesses and the services and development opportunities on each participating rail line.
“Rail transportation is an environmentally friendly green freight transportation option that is three times more fuel efficient than trucking. Combined, our member short lines operate more than 3,000 km (1,860 miles) of track and move approximately 60,000 cars annually, a significant reduction in carbon emissions vs. shipping those commodities by truck. Because of their energy efficiency, short lines have been identified as an important ally in provincial carbon emissions reduction plans; expanding the size and usage of short lines is specifically mentioned in Saskatchewan’s Prairie Resilience Climate Change Strategy to help the province meet its climate goals.
“Short line rail transportation also keeps large, heavy trucks off of provincial highways and rural roads, reducing taxpayer-funded repairs to our highway system and improving vehicle safety. By connecting small and medium sized businesses with information about short line transportation options, this program encourages environmentally-friendly freight movement in Western Canada.
WCSLRA represents the interests of the 18 short line railways in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan listed above as well as 26 railway supplier members, “serving as a voice for the short line sector at federal, provincial, and municipal levels and work with industry associations and shippers to promote business development on short lines, safe and efficient rail service in rural Western Canada, and fluidity in the Canadian supply chain.”
“The WCSLRA is excited and honored by the acknowledgement from the government of Canada to invest in the future of short line railways in Western Canada,” said WCSLRA President Andrew Glastetter, General Manager of Great Western Railway. “We appreciate the confidence from the government in recognizing the value that short line rail adds to the supply chain as we look to seek even further opportunities to grow our operations to better serve Canadians in the many rural communities across the west. This funding will help bring forward recognition and better understanding of how short lines can be the perfect solution for shippers looking to set up or expand operations in the West.”
“We are very excited to be launching a marketing program for the short line sector in Western Canada,” added WCSLRA Director of Communications & Government Relations Rachel Mackenzie. “This program will help us share our stories, improve public awareness of short line railways, and introduce business owners to rail service opportunities. Short line railways operate safely and effectively through many rural communities across Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta and offer reliable rail access, strong customer service, and great jobs. Building an industrial facility on a short line railway is an excellent way to gain affordable access to rail, a possibility that many small or medium sized business owners are unaware of. It is time for us to share the good work that railway operators do each day and the development opportunities that short line railways represent for rural communities.”