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New short line railway to serve Interlake

A group of Interlake farmers has purchased a 50-km rail line between Gimli and Selkirk with financial assistance from the Manitoba government.

Lake Line Railroad (LLRR) Inc. is launching a new short line freight railway between Gimli and Selkirk, officials announced Aug. 2.

“Lake Line Railroad will ensure the continued rail shipment of grain and other important goods in the area,” said Manitoba Transportation Minister Steve Ashton in a release. “Their business model focuses on community ownership and specialized services and makes the short line a permanent asset that can be utilized by farmers and other shippers in the Interlake.”

Lake Line Railroad, owned primarily by farmers in the Interlake, purchased the line from Canadian Pacific Railway. In addition to the province’s contribution, the cost of purchasing the rail line has been funded through producer-raised support and private loans.

Under the terms of agreement with the province, LLRR is required to operate the short line railway for at least 10 years or repay the funds. The province also provided Lake Line Railroad with $20,000 in late 2010 to complete a feasibility study on the purchase of the rail line.

“The acquisition of the rail assets ensures marketing options for farmers in the Interlake and opens up future possibilities for new businesses that are rail dependent to locate in the Gimli area,” said Randy Penner, president, Lake Line Railroad. “We are excited and pleased as we have been working for more than three years to make this goal a reality.”

Lake Line Railroad has started freight rail service to shippers along the rail line and to Hudson Cement in Selkirk. LLRR also has an agreement to provide freight services to Diageo Distillery’s plant in Gimli and expects to attract grain shipments from local farmers.

“Purchasing smaller branch lines is a viable solution in many regions of Manitoba. It prevents the need for more heavy truck traffic on local and provincial roads, and helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because rail is more efficient than truck transportation,” said Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade Minister Peter Bjornson at an event on behalf of Ashton.

In 2009, the Boundary Trails Railway Company (BTRC) established a short line railway between Manitou and Morden with a contribution from the Manitoba government. BTRC is also an association of farm producers and business leaders. As well, Keewatin Railway Company, a consortium of three First Nations, set up a short line railway in 2005 with support from the Manitoba government. This railway operates between Sherritt Junction and Pukatawagan.

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