North Central Rail funding announced

By Ben Ingram

Local officials gathered at City Hall last week to announce funding intended to bring the North Central Rail back into service.

The $3 million will be used to rejuvenate the line and bring it back into operation. North Central Rail Ltd.’s Ray Wilfing said that while the line is in need of some pretty expensive repairs, the long-term value rests with the cheaper transportation of goods it will offer the region.

“One tonne of freight by rail for 200km takes 1 litre of fuel, 1 tonne for 200km by truck on our highways takes a minimum of seven litres of fuel,” he explained during the announcement. “Plus we have the cost to the public of maintaining that road. The railroads are private industries, they look after their railbeds and everything.”

Wilfing also offered benefits to the local economy, lowered environmental impact and future development as other upsides of having the line in operation.

For Trevor Reid, CFO and president of NorSask Forest Products, the benefits have more to do with a growing labour shortage in the trucking industry.

“Where we’re finding ourselves now is trucks are becoming more and more scarce. It’s challenging,” he explained.

According to Reid, the company historically used rail to transport as much as 50 per cent of their volume and he added his belief that a return to operation could be a quick benefit to the area’s mills.

Wilfing also said that other groups have expressed an interest in seeing the line come back to life, including the Big River saw mill.

North Central Rail Ltd. has not yet completed the transaction of ownership with Denver-based OmniTRAX, but Wilfing echoed his optimism that a deal can be reached soon.

Mayor-elect Gary Vidal was also on hand to announce the funding of the line.

“What it will mean for our city and surrounding area, once this rail line purchase is complete, this is an important thing to our existing industry especially our forestry industry,” he said. “It is also critical to developing future industry in this area.”

As the $3 million in funding will come under the provincial government’s Community Development Trust Fund, Jeremy Harrison was in attendance to offer some reflections on what it could mean for the region.

“This is an incredibly important project. We know that the rail line is very important for our forest industry, we know that it’s going to be important in terms of the further economic development here in northwest Saskatchewan, particularly in the city of Meadow Lake,” he said.


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