While the provincial government is enthusiastically announcing $700,000 in funding for shortline rail operations in the province, an organization attempting to get established has been permanently derailed.
The directors of North Central Rail (NCR), over the past three years, have worked towards developing a municipally owned and operated rail line the Northwest Saskatchewan, which would have served both industry and municipalities from Meadow Lake to Denholm.
According to an NCR press release, provincial funding commitments were adequate however, with the major cuts in the Federal budget last month no federal funds were allocated to assist with the rehab of the rail line.
“The NCR directors, in conjunction with advisors, government and industry partners, have determined that it is no longer feasible to continue with this Northwest rail line project,” chairman Ray Wilfing states in the release.
Wilfing indicates the directors of North Central Rail received dedicated participation and input from the following: Enterprise Saskatchewan, Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, OmniTRAX Canada Inc., Meadow Lake Mechanical Pulp Mill, Paper Excellence, Tolko Industries Ltd., the RM of Meadow Lake and several participating municipalities.
In other areas of the province 11 shortline railways will benefit from funds awarded through the the Shortline Railway Sustainability Program.
"Our government recognizes shortlines are an effective transportation alternative for grain producers and other shippers to get products to market," Highways and Infrastructure Minister and minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Grain Car Corporation Jim Reiter said. "In addition to supporting economic development in rural Saskatchewan, shortline railways help reduce heavy truck traffic and road wear on our highways."
This 50-50 cost-shared infrastructure grant program, funded provincially by the Saskatchewan Grain Car Corporation and matched by eligible recipients, is designed to improve provincially-regulated shortline railways and can be used for projects such as track maintenance, railway tie replacements and bridge repairs.
"Funding for this grant program is consistent with last year, which increased 40 per cent from the previous year," Reiter said.
This year's eligible shortlines and their respective provincial grant amounts are as follows:
Southern Rails Co-operative based out of Avonlea, $35,000;
Carlton Trail Railway based out of Prince Albert, $76,382;
Red Coat Road and Rail based out of Viceroy, $47,739;
Great Western Railway based out of Shaunavon, $205,901;
Thunder Rail based out of Arborfield, $35,000;
Wheatland Rail based out of Cudworth, $35,000;
Fife Lake Railway based out of Coronach, $40,267;
Torch River Rail based out of Choiceland, $35,000;
Great Sandhills Railway based out of Leader, $78,458;
Last Mountain Railway based out of Regina, $56,457; and
Stewart Southern Railway based out of Fillmore, $54,796.
"Our association appreciates the provincial government's ongoing commitment in supporting shortline rail in Saskatchewan," Saskatchewan Shortline Railway Association president Conrad Johnson said. "These grants have provided the funding necessary to grow our transportation sector."
Since its inception in 2008, up to $5.8 million will be invested into the shortline railway system in Saskatchewan by the end of the current fiscal year. Shortline railways and their track are regulated by the province and connect to approximately 6,200 kilometres of federally-regulated rail lines in Saskatchewan.