Cape Breton rail line to likely shut down in fall

The provincial transportation minister says it's likely a done deal that the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway line in Cape Breton will be shut down this fall.

'They've taken considerable losses on this line,' says transportation minister

The province gives Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway a $2 million annual subsidy to operate the Cape Breton stretch of the line. (CBC)

The province's transportation minister says the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway line in Cape Breton will likely shut down this fall.

"They've taken considerable losses on this line," said Geoff MacLellan, noting the line is operating at five per cent of what is needed to break even.

The province gives the rail company a subsidy worth $2 million a year to operate the line. MacLellan said it is time to gather stakeholders to think about the line's future.

"This is about the health and the survival of the line, so we'll talk to the local [Cape Breton Regional Municipality], we'll talk to the private sector players who are affected by this, and of course, it may be time to start looking for new operators for that line," he said.

MacLellan said the province will continue to offer the annual subsidy to whatever company ends up operating the line.

"For us, this is about the line, it's about Cape Bretoners and it's about the economy and we know that some of the important pillars of the economy here may be connected to some modes of transportation, including rail," he said.

The loss of the rail line would have a significant impact on Cape Breton's business community.

Sean Burke is the general manager of Polysteel Atlantic, a company that makes synthetic rope and brings in the raw materials by rail. He says losing the rail line would mean a big increase in his operating costs.

The CBCNS Rail company has come under fire recently for ignoring concerns from Port Hawkesbury Mayor Billy Joe MacLean and Coun. Joe Janega, who is also a structural engineer with 35 years' experience, about the line’s structural integrity.