Rail line

Future of Sydney subdivision rail in limbo until news on potential port  

Cape Breton Regional Municipality needs to make decision on possible container port in Sydney Harbour, deputy minister says

Deputy minister Paul LaFleche (centre) says, “We really need to know about that container terminal, because that’s the key to all this."
Deputy minister Paul LaFleche (centre) says, “We really need to know about that container terminal, because that’s the key to all this.”   Sindi Skenderi

During the standing committee on economic development meeting on Tuesday, Paul LaFleche, deputy minister of transportation and infrastructure renewal, said they are in a sort of limbo with investing in the Sydney subdivision railroad.

“It’s kind of hard to invest since there’s no trains going,” he said.

Genesee and Wyoming, the owners of the rail, discontinued the use of the Sydney subdivision rail line in October. They will be eligible to abandon the line as of April 1. The line runs from St. Peters Junction, near Port Tupper, to Sydney.

If there was a container port at Sydney Harbour, that would be a reason to keep the rail line open.

LaFleche said there hasn’t been much information from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality about the possibility of a port.

He said that without the municipality securing a port terminal for containers, they can’t really ask the provincial or the federal government for investments in the railroad.

The municipality granted Harbor Port Development Partners (HPDP) the right to market the port of Sydney for development to anyone they choose. In December, HDPD said it was discussing possible design, construction and ownership of the container terminal with China Communications Construction Company limited (CCCC).

“We really need to know about that container terminal, because that’s the key to all this,” said LaFleche.

Liberal MLA Brendan Maguire said, “This is an important project for Cape Breton. This is an important project for the rail system. So what’s the hold-up? Why don’t we have more information? Why can’t you be more definitive on what is happening?”

LaFleche said the right person to answer that question would be the mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Cecil Clarke, and the CEO of the port authority.

In 2014, Genesee and Wyoming disclosed its intent to discontinue and abandon the Sydney subdivision line due to old worn rails, which slow trains and deter future customers.

LaFleche said they don’t know how much it would be to remediate the line, but the removal of three bridges in the province in the past cost around $4 million.