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Rathwell-Nesbitt Short Line Being Explored

Around 1 0 0 people attended a meeting in Holland Aug. 6, to explore purchasing part of the Glenboro subdivision from the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to set up a short line railway.

Meeting organizers Bob Wheeler, a business development specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives and Carman MLA Blaine Pedersen, said they were happy with the turnout.

A half-dozen or more people said following the meeting they want to investigate the idea further. If there’s interest the next step is to study the feasibility of a short line railway, Wheeler said.

The CPR served notice in 2006 that it wants to discontinue operating 62.8 miles of track between Rathwell and Nesbitt. The entire line runs from Winnipeg west past Reston into Saskatchewan. Although the CPR has given notice of discontinuance, it still hasn’t offered the line for sale – a federal regulation designed to ensure there’s an opportunity for others to buy a line before it gets ripped up.

By starting to investigate the short line option now, potential buyers won’t be so rushed when CPR puts the line up for sale, Pedersen said in an interview.

“In the case of the Boundary Trails Railway (Morden to Manitou) organizers were trying to raise funds to buy the line at one end while the track was being ripped up at the other,” Pedersen said.

“We don’t want to be five years down the road having the line ripped out and regretting that we didn’t check things out.”

The line is in excellent shape. Heavy rail and new ballast and ties were installed under a federal government program to upgrade grain-dependent branch lines in the 1980s.

Most short line railways rely mainly on producer car business. Farmers can save around $1,000 loading their own grain cars, bypassing elevators.

Paterson Grain operates elevators on the line at Holland and Cypress River.

There are five steps a federally regulated railway must go through before being allowed to tear up a railway. (See the Canadian Transportation Agency’s website www.cta-otc.gc.ca/railferro/disco/index_e.htmlfor full details.)

Every federal railway company must have a public plan showing which lines it will operate during the next three years and which it wants to discontinue.

When a railway wants to discontinue operating a line of railway, it must first publicly advertise the line for sale, lease, or other transfer for continued operations.

The railway must disclose the process for receiving and evaluating offers and has six months from the advertised deadline to reach an agreement. If it is not reached within six months, the railway company may decide to continue operation or if no agreement is reached, offer to sell the line to governments.

The railway must offer to transfer all of its interest in the railway line simultaneously to the federal (where applicable), provincial or municipal governments through whose territory the railway line passes for no more than the net salvage value of the line.

If there has been no agreement on the sale, lease or other transfer of the line, the railway may discontinue operation. Railway companies are required to compensate municipalities or districts with three annual payments of $10,000 per mile. [email protected]

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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