Future of branch lines depend on volume

Canadian Pacific Railway says it will continue to review its Canadian rail network in an effort to improve safety and find operational efficiencies.

However, CP officials declined to comment specifically on the future of western Canadian branch lines that are slated for discontinuance in the company’s three-year rail network plan.

“As per the Canadian Transportation Act, railways must prepare and keep up to date a plan indicating … whether it intends to continue to operate the line or whether, within the next three years, it intends to take steps to discontinue operating the line,” CP said in a recent email.

“We are following the process prescribed by the (Canadian Transportation) Agency, including giving any interested party ample time to provide feedback.”

In its three-year rail network plan published late last year, CP identified 14 sections of rail line that are slated for discontinuance.

The list includes five sections of track in Saskatchewan spanning a total of 230 kilometres and two sections of track in Alberta covering 33 km.

Saskatchewan lines listed for discontinuance include:

  • a section of the Hatton subdivision in the province’s southwest covering 28.5 km between Hatton and Golden Prairie
  • nearly 83 km of track on the Kerrobert-Rosetown subdivision between Conquest and Herschel
  • approximately 112 km of track on the CP Radville subdivision between Weyburn and Bengough
  • approximately 22.7 kilometres of track between Kelvington and Fosston in the province’s east-central region

In Alberta, the lines slated for discontinuance include:

  • approximately 12.4 km of track between Stirling and Raymond
  • roughly 21.5 km of track on the Breton subdivision between Buford and Sunnybrook

The plan also lists seven spur lines or rail leads, including one in Manitoba, one in British Columbia and five in Ontario.

CP spokesperson Jeremy Berry said lines are typically selected for discontinuance if they haven’t had significant traffic in a number of years.

“Just because a particular line is on the three-year plan does not necessarily mean any action will lead to discontinuance of rail service,” he said.

Shippers who were contacted by The Western Producer declined to comment on CP’s discontinuance plans.

One shipper who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the section of track that leads to his community has been on and off CP’s discontinuance list for the past 20 years.

Local producers use the branch line to ship producer cars loaded with grain and pulse crops, al-though volumes vary from year to year.

He said local shippers are generally reluctant to comment on discontinuance plans because they do not want to affect their relationship with rail service providers.

In mid-September, CP closed several producer car loading sites in Saskatchewan citing reduced shipping volumes.

Affected locations in Saskatchewan included Tompkins, Midale, Cupar, Markinch, Grand Coulee, Wilcox, Moosomin, Tisdale and Qu’Appelle.

CP now services 27 producer car loading sites in Saskatchewan, down from 79 in 2005.

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