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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Teamsters Canada Rail Conference to Ontario: Help fund short-line infrastructure upgrades


The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) has called on the province of Ontario to join the Ontario Short Line Railway Infrastructure Partnership.

The province’s 14 short lines interchange with CN and Canadian Pacific and provide rail service to under-served areas of Ontario, the union said. However, many of the short lines’ infrastructure is in disrepair and needs to be fixed — some track restricts train speed to less than 12 mph and “there is a real possibility some of these short lines will close down as early as this summer due to safety concerns and operating inefficiencies,” TCRC officials said in a prepared statement.

Earlier this week, Genesee & Wyoming Inc. announced plans to shut down the Huron Central Railway, which operates between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, primarily because the short line couldn’t secure provincial funding to help pay for much-needed track upgrades.

Under the partnership, the province would enter into a shared funding agreement with the government of Canada and Ontario’s short lines to establish an infrastructure program for the renewal of basic rail infrastructure. Projects funded by the partnership would address upgrades to track to accommodate 286,000-pound axle loads.

“This is not a bailout. It's an investment between the companies and government; not only in creating Ontario jobs but in ensuring public safety,” said William Brehl, president of the TCRC’s Maintenance of Way Employees Division, which represents more than 4,000 MOW workers at CP and two dozen short lines.

Meanwhile, the Ontario Northland General Chairpersons’ Association (GCA) recently held a meeting to discuss the state of rail infrastructure and deterioration of services by the Huron Central Railway and Ottawa Valley Railway. Both short lines are “looking at pulling up stakes because of the recent downturn in the economy, which could leave the north with no train service from North Bay to Sault Ste Marie,” GCA officials said in a statement.

Association members believe a viable long-term solution is to have the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) become the transportation and communication authority for northern Ontario. GCA members include TCRC, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, United Steel Workers and Canadian Auto Workers, which represent ONTC’s unionized employees.

“Ontario Northland already … runs freight and passenger services throughout northeastern Ontario,” said GCA spokesperson Brian Kelly. This is the opportune time for the Crown Corporation to expand westward to ensure all the communities in the North have fair access to a safe and reliable transportation system.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/19/2009