Sask. backs northwestern rail line for needed repair

Saskatchewan will put up $3 million for needed improvements and maintenance on a grain- and forestry-dependent rail line in the province’s northwest, pending the line’s sale.

The provincial funding will go to North Central Rail Line, the organization negotiating for the purchase of the line running about 340 km from Meadow Lake southeast to Shellbrook, then southwest to Speers, about 50 km east of North Battleford.

The former CN track’s current owner, OmniTrax’s Carlton Trail Railway Co., filed in 2008 to discontinue the line, which it had operated since 1997.

“Once the ownership transaction of the rail line is completed, refurbishment will be our No. 1 priority,” North Central Rail Line chair Ray Wilfing said in the province’s release Thursday.

“This funding, with other funding sources, will help to ensure that the necessary improvements can be made to the rail line.”

The North Central group, which includes representation from communities and industries along the line, said last year that the line requires a minimum of $8 million in repair work “immediately.” The line isn’t currently in condition to be used during the spring thaw period, the group noted.

Major grain handlers operating elevators on the line include Richardson Pioneer at Shellbrook and Cargill at nearby Canwood. Carlton Trail, which currently lists the line as “inactive,” has trackage rights on CN from Speers to North Battleford.

“The Meadow Lake to Speers rail line will make transporting products to the main CPR rail line (at Saskatoon) more cost-effective,” the province said in its release.

The province’s contribution will flow through the Community Development Trust Fund, a $1 billion federal fund from which Saskatchewan was allocated $36.4 million over three years, to be managed by the province’s economic development agency Enterprise Saskatchewan.

Carlton Trail continues to actively operate 165 km of former CN track, running from Viterra’s White Star elevator north of Prince Albert through to Warman, just north of Saskatoon.

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