The U.S.-based owner of a money-losing rail line in Cape Breton is "in discussions" with consultants hired to develop Sydney harbour to gauge whether the railway can stay in business on the island, according to a statement from the two.

Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway has received Utility and Review Board approval to abandon the line in Cape Breton after arguing it's unprofitable.

A committee of government officials, commercial interests and private citizens was struck earlier this year to find new business for the line, but has not announced any progress.

At the same time, Harbor-Port Development Partners (HPDP), which has exclusive rights from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to market the Sydney port and develop a container terminal, has been negotiating with the railway.

Future of rail in Cape Breton

The statement issued Thursday says the rail company is discussing with Harbor-Port "the possibility of providing future rail service on the line from Truro to Sydney, as part of the deep water port development project in Sydney."

The statement says that rather than abandon the line as planned, the rail company "have instead decided to work co-operatively with HPDP to further common goals."

Those goals include promotion of the container terminal and the "re-commencement of rail service from the terminal lands in the future."

CBNS president Louis Gravel said in the statement that if the container terminal materializes, it could help secure the future of the rail line in Cape Breton.

Cape Breton Regional Mayor Cecil Clarke tweeted the update Thursday morning.

"Our private sector development partners now working with CBNS Rail," he said. "This is a complete change of direction from the track we were on."