The Huron Central Railway task force held a meeting on Wednesday afternoon with representatives from businesses, communities and First Nations to provide them with an update on the task forces’ work and to discuss the final steps moving forward.
The HCR – which announced back in May that they’d have to shut down if they can’t acquire the $46.2 million they need to continue – held a presentation for those in attendance to showcase what the support of municipalities along the Huron Central Railway line from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury would help accomplish over the next five years if they chose to help the railway stay afloat.
The plan includes improvements to the rail line, such as changing of ties and rails, structural bridge repairs, ballast work and drainage, upgrades to the grade crossings (to comply with upcoming changes to the Grade Crossing Regulations by November 28, 2021) and a new mechanical shop in the Sault to improve efficiency.
Louis Gravel, president of Genesee & Wyoming Canada, said he’s very confident that the railway will get the money they’re asking for.
“I think that’s why we took the decision to cease operation, because we were not successful with that demand with the Federal government. Now there’s a change in the Provincial government and we saw support coming from the actual government and Mr. Romano here, same with the opposition, Mr. Mantha was very supportive during the election,” he said. “So we believe what the people are demonstrating here is a lot of support for Huron Central, and they believe that we’re important for the evolvement of the region, so I’m pretty confident that we’ll get what we ask for, even if it’s a lot of money. We understand that’s a lot of money from the community, but we’re important and we believe that it’s going to be successful.
“(Keeping the HCR alive is important) for economic development. Also for avoiding more traffic on the roads, because if we disappear, we understand that most of them will go with trucks, so it’s going to mean more traffic, more deterioration of the roads as well, the highway, more accidents. So keeping Huron Central is important for the economic development, it’s important for safety, and it’s also important for the environment, because the railways are a lot cleaner than trucks,” he continued.
EACOM Timber, one of the three clients of the HCR, was in attendance. Director of Public Affairs, Christine Leduc, said keeping the railway running is important because of how directly it’s related to one of their sawmills.
“We’ve got a saw mill in Nairn Centre, which is 50 kms west of Sudbury, and Huron Central Rail runs right through the saw mill. So it’s important for us both because it brings logs from the forest to the mill, and also because it helps us transport our finished product, lumber, to the American housing market,” she said. “We sell our products from that mill both to Canada and the U.S., and most of those Canadian sells are destined to the Toronto market, so Huron Central is very important to our Nairn Centre operation.”
Leduc said, despite the fact that the HRC was denied funding back in April, EACOM is hopeful that the Doug Ford government will come through with their promise to support the railway.
“Transportation is part of our cost, and it’s an expensive part of our cost, and so certainly at this point we’re hoping that this effort will be successful,” she said. “We were encouraged on the first of June when Doug Ford made his commitment to fund Huron Central Rail should he from government, so at this stage now, we are optimistic that the Ford government will step up and ensure the long-term sustainability of Huron Central, and that’s really what we’re hoping for.”
Gravel said HRC needs a commitment from the government by the end of 2018 by the latest. The HRC task force will be meeting with the government again on August 21.