Huron Central Railway: Made in the North, Pulling for the North
November 18, 2020 - A fair amount of ink has been spilled lately on the status of the Huron Central Railway (HCRY). While it is common knowledge that the railway faces an uncertain future and is seeking financial assistance from government to share the cost of rehabilitating the line so it can be there to support our region’s economic recovery, what may not be as clear is the degree to which HCRY is already a made in the North transportation solution.
As the General Manager for the HCRY, and as a long-standing resident of Northern Ontario, I would like an opportunity to set the record straight. Not only have I been pulling for this rail line and region my entire career, I would like to make clear the “made in the North” solution that has been vocalized more readily in recent weeks, is already in place.
Every day, my team of 43 hardworking members wake up, roll up their sleeves and get to work to put the safety and prosperity of their communities front and centre by operating this essential short line. They are salt of the earth workers who have dedicated their railroading careers exclusively to Northern Ontario. They are our neighbours and are active, contributing members of their local communities, residing between Sault Ste. Marie, Espanola and Sudbury.
Our parent company, Genesee & Wyoming Canada, has also been an important and dedicated partner in the North for over 20 years. They have invested tens of millions of dollars back into the infrastructure of this rail line which connect our communities, and the industries that sustain our region. They help to support the local communities and businesses along the line and most importantly, they fight every day for the best interests of the people and communities we serve.
We are the safest and most experienced short line operator in North America -- and on top of the tens of millions of dollars we have already invested in this important rail corridor, we remain willing to invest millions more of HCRY’s money alongside the government. Currently, every train running on the line must be escorted by a mobile truck running in front of the locomotives. While this adds cost to HCRY, it is done to ensure the integrity of the main line infrastructure does not impact the safety of freight operations and the ongoing service provided to our customers.
It is therefore important to note the issue is not with the operator of this rail line, it is with the infrastructure of this rail line. Short line railways, like HCRY, do not have the access to government funding programs to invest in railway infrastructure, which is our industry’s equivalent to highways for trucks. Regardless of who operates this rail line, the investment is necessary to upgrade the rail line’s infrastructure, which is in a desperate state of repair.
The investment being sought for this strategic asset from the federal and provincial governments is not for the company. The current request made to the government is to contribute alongside HCRY in a shared investment towards the future of our region. 100% of the investment being sought from the federal and provincial governments will remain in the North, along with our company’s own contribution.
The investment will rehabilitate the 288 km of railway and contribute to the economic recovery and development of the region. It will secure the jobs of our 43 employees who live and work in the communities we serve. It will also support the jobs, employees, families and future growth potential at Algoma Steel, Domtar Espanola and EACOM – HCRY’s main customers. A sustainable future for HCRY will also provide other major employers in the region with confidence to invest in connections to the railway, supporting the overall economic development of the region.
With less than one month remaining until the last train is set to run, all of us at Huron Central Railway and Genesee & Wyoming Canada are determined as ever to work with our government partners, CP Rail (owner of the line) and our customers to secure the investment required to ensure this important transportation corridor remains a vital link for the Northern Communities for many years to come.
HCRY is proud of our long-term history and commitment of being a made in the North solution. We are pulling for the North.
Let’s all pull together.
General Manager, Huron Central Railway