Short-line railways pleased with funding plan

The association that represents short-line railway operators in Western Canada says Ottawa’s recent investment in rural railway upgrades in Saskatchewan is a great first step for shortlines and for the economy.

“We are thrilled to see that the federal government recognizes the critical role that short-line railways play in Canada’s export system,” said Perry Pellerin, president of the Western Canadian Short Line Railway Association (WCSLRA).

“We need to continue to look for ways that allow shortlines to play a bigger part (in growing) … the economy.

Last week, (Aug. 12) Liberal MP Ralph Goodale announced a $12.4 million federal investment in two short-line railway projects in Saskatchewan.

The first project involves track upgrades on the Great Sandhills Railway (GSR), a short-line company that operates more than 200 kilometres of track between Burstall, Sask., and Swift Current.

That project will include the installation of new track and will allow Great Sandhills to move freight more quickly and more efficiently, said Pellerin.

Pembina, a pipeline and energy infrastructure company, is building a new loading facility in the Burstall area, about 200 kilometres northwest of Swift Current near the Saskatchewan-Alberta border.

Pellerin said the federal investment will allow GSR to provide more timely and efficient rail service to Pembina and to future shipping customers in southwestern Saskatchewan.

The upgrade will allow GSR to increase the frequency of freight hauls to once a day, up from twice a week currently, said Transport Canada.

Blockage time on Canadian Pacific Railway’s busy mainline through Swift Current will also be reduced as a result of more reliable and improved operations.

The second project involves the construction of three new rail loops and a repair shop at the North West Terminal (NWT) near Unity, Sask.

The loop tracks — all to be constructed on NWT land — will allow grain and other products to be loaded and moved more efficiently and will also reduce congestion on Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway between Saskatoon and Edmonton.

“This work will increase rail traffic volumes, improve flow and improve the performance of the transportation network in the area by offering efficient access to both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific mainline tracks,” Transport Canada said.

Work on the Unity project is expected to start later this year.

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