Thought of bringing back rail service
July 10, 2008
Source: The Sun Times
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years have passed since a train last chugged through Owen Sound, but
factors like escalating fuel prices could lay the tracks for a
revival of rail service to the city.
Prospective owners of the Orangeville-Brampton Railway have a
long-term plan to create a line from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay in
Reviving rail service to the city was listed in a report on Owen
Sound’s economic future as a way to boost tourism and strengthen
local industry. Developing a rail corridor strategy has also been
ranked as a priority by Grey County councillors.
“I think that would be wonderful if we got the rail back in the
city. It’s certainly helpful on a number of levels and most
importantly to industry and to transport goods,” said Owen Sound
Mayor Ruth Lovell.
Hauling passengers to the city would be a boom to the downtown, she
said, and support the economy. Rail would also provide an
environmentally friendly way to transport freight and tourists to
the city’s harbour, she said.
The City of Orangeville decided earlier this year to sell the
Orangeville-Brampton Railway to the Highlands Railway Group for $7
million. The deal could take two years to close.
Highlands’ group spokesman Michael Daniher said reinstalling the
line from Orangeville to Owen Sound, along former Canadian Pacific
corridor, is a possibility.
“It’s a vision that the company has of creating a long-term and
viable north-south rail corridor between Georgian Bay and Lake
Ontario,” he said in an interview.
Rail is an increasingly cost-effective form of transporting freight,
he said, and more environmentally friendly than shipping by
Extending the line is “something (we) would love to pursue as
quickly as practicable,” Daniher said.
Passenger trains haven’t rolled through Owen Sound since 1970. The
last CN Rail train left Owen Sound in 1987, while the final CP train
pulled through in 1995, according to the Owen Sound Marine & Rail
The CP tracks north of Orangeville were ripped up in the late 1990s
and the property now belongs to Dufferin and Grey counties.
The Grey County section serves as a multi-use recreational trail,
with potential for a utility or transportation corridor.
Highland Railway Group representatives have held an introductory
meeting with Grey and Dufferin officials.
“Down the road, if there is an interest to purchase it from the
county, it’ll be interesting to see how the debate goes at the
county level as to whether or not it would be a lease or an outright
sale,” Grey County chief administrative officer Gary Wood said after
Tuesday’s county council meeting.
County councillors recently ranked 15 priorities, including the
development of a rail corridor strategy, by importance. Nine
councillors selected the strategy as very important, while eight
checked off important and only one chose low importance.
County staff will now prepare a report on developing the strategy.
Grey County Warden Kevin Eccles admitted reinstating a rail line
could be controversial.
“We know we’re not going to please everyone no matter what we do,”
But he said a Via Rail line near Ottawa has managed to please
various groups by maintaining parallel hiking and skiing trails.
“We’ll see what comes out of the report, what possibilities are
there,” he said.
An economic development strategy for Owen Sound listed the city’s
transportation infrastructure as a weakness, singling out a lack of
rail access as “having limited the community’s ability to support or
attract some industrial operations.”
Owen Sound’s distance to major markets, coupled with the rising cost
of fuel, is also seen as a weakness in attracting industry.
A railway line “represents a unique opportunity for the City of Owen
Sound, both in terms of a heightened use of the city’s port and
harbourfront area but also for the downtown/retailers as the city
would be a destination for tourist excursions,” the report says.