The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce (SSMCOC) has lent its name to a letter to the Honourable Marc Garneau, Federal Minister of Transportation, encouraging the Federal Government to do more to support Canada’s shortline rail system.
The letter was sent jointly by the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber, the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, the Railway Association of Canada, and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
Canada’s 50plus shortline railways transport $20.3 billion worth of freight each year – everything from metals, lumber, grain and manufactured goods – to and from continental rail networks, such as CN and CP. Ontario is home to nearly a dozen shortline railways, providing market access to 150 communities across the province.
Unfortunately, Canada’s shortline system also faces considerable challenges, which was clearly demonstrated recently when the Huron Central Railway (HCR), which operates between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury, announced that that it would need to cease operations at the end of 2018 without additional financial support.
“The HCR, is an integral part of Sault Ste. Marie’s economy and vital to many of our local jobs,” notes Don Mitchell, President of the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce. “It is a vital transportation link for much of our local manufactured product. The loss of the HCR would not only mean local jobs lost, but it would also result in an increase of up to 40,000 trucks annually on our regional highway. The increased impact on infrastructure as well as environmental costs would be significant.”
While the Government of Ontario recently announced that it would provide $980,000 to support the Huron Central Railway’s continued operations, the agencies that penned the letter note that this interim funding is just a start.
“We appreciate that the Ontario Government has provided a window of opportunity for all parties to come to the table to ensure the ongoing viability of HCR. The recent challenges faced by HCR however are symbolic of a much larger problem that is impacting Canada’s shortline rail system and what we experienced locally should serve as a wake-up call to the government, to municipalities and manufacturers across the country that more has to be done to support our shortline rail links,” says Mitchell.
The letter, in full, can be found on the Chamber website at www.ssmcoc.com