North Central Rail throws in the towel

by Phil Ambroziak

All Aboard!

Except for the federal government that is.

Because of a lack of funding from the federal government, the North Central Rail (NCR) board of directors has decided to derail efforts to purchase a stretch of track in Saskatchewan’s northwest.

“There’s not much more we can do because there will be no federal money likely coming,” remarked NCR chair Ray Wilfing. “We’ve exhausted all our options and can’t go any further.”

The board has worked for three years to develop a municipally owned and operated rail line which would have served both industry and municipalities from Meadow Lake to Denholm. It was expected to cost $25 million to purchase and refurbish the track, which would have served as an alternate means of transporting forest products to consumers. NCR was in negotiations with a U.S. company to purchase 320 kilometres of rail. It also planned to buy a smaller, CN-owned line. The provincial government committed $3 million to the project, but the lack of federal dollars has made the project “no longer feasible.”

“I’m not sure how long they (forest industry) can live with increased (transportation) prices,” Wilfing continued. “The industries will more than likely try to get a greater weight on the road now, which will result in taxpayers having to pay to maintain these roads.”

Wilfing also believes the project’s failure could have a negative impact on future industry being established in the northwest.

“I don’t think the future will run on rubber tire trains,” he said. “The entire board is disappointed, but we had to face facts.”

RM of Meadow Lake councillor Doug Bacon, a strong supporter of NCR’s efforts, is also disappointed in the news.

“That rail line would have been important to the three local forest industries and any future oil and gas producers,” Bacon said.

Bacon could not recall the exact amount the RM has invested, but did note there were also plans for future investments.

“That money is lost,” he said. “It’s just so disappointing there was no federal support.”

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