Published: September 17th 2009
Source: By ELAINE DELLA-MATTIA, THE SAULT STAR
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HURON CENTRAL RAILWAY: Groups look for long-term solution to
Meetings are on track this week to find a long-term rail
operator to ensure service between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.
CAO Joe Fratesi, who is leading the group, said a smaller working
group met Tuesday and the larger committee of about 45 stakeholders
met Wednesday for a progress report.
As lawyers continue to finalize the one-year agreement that will see
Huron Central Railway continue its operations until next August with
financial assistance from the federal and provincial governments and
the two major users of the line, steps are being taken to look
beyond next summer.
An application has been filed on behalf of Huron Central Rail, or
its successor operator for federal stimulus program funding of
That's the amount of work that can "realistically" be done to meet
the stimulus funding application criteria before the March 2011
deadline, Fratesi said.
The application is based on a 90 per cent contribution divided
equally between the federal and provincial governments and 10 per
cent contribution by Huron Central.
It's expected work will have to be done between early spring and
later fall, due to the nature of weather in the area.
The group will also ensure it has a commitment from CP Rail to enter
into a long-term contract with Huron Central Rail or another
acceptable short-line operator.
At the same time, Fratesi said a consultant will be hired to develop
the terms and criteria for a request for proposal seeking a
long-term operator of the rail line.
It's expected the request for proposal could be issued sometime in
October. It will be looking for an operator willing to run the line
for 20 years, leased by CP Rail.
Huron Central has the first right to put forth a proposal that could
lead to a long-term agreement to operate the railway under a new
lease agreement with CP Railway.
Fratesi said that proposal would have to be presented to the
committee before the end of October.
It's expected that any proposal -- Huron Central Rail or any other
interested proponent -- will include a requirement that the
infrastructure needs to be improved.
Any future operator would also have to meet the criteria of CP
Railway and the higher levels of government to be eligible for
infrastructure improvement money.
Fratesi said the remaining $22 million needed for the infrastructure
upgrades will be submitted soon under a Communities Infrastructure
"Time doesn't allow us to take this one step at a time. We have to
do several functions at one time," Fratesi said.
Sault MP Tony Martin, who participated in Tuesday's meeting, said
North-ern Ontario New Democrats are pushing for a pan-Northern
solution with expanded passenger and freight rail service taking a
He said he will continue pushing for federal economic stimulus money
for rail and wants to see the return of passenger rail service to
Northern Ontario. It believes passenger service would boost regional
tourism, help industry, health care and reduce greenhouse gas