Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan says he hopes the opening of a handful of new companies in Sydney will help save the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, currently on track to be abandoned this fall.
MacLellan is forming a working group to save the rail line. About 25 political and business leaders met Friday at the Richmond council chambers, a followup from last week’s session in Sydney.
The minister said four to six companies are interested in setting up shop in Sydney. He said that could create business for the rail line between St. Peters Junction and Sydney, which is due to close in the fall.
The owner of the rail line says it's losing money.
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The Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway says it will apply to the utility and review board to stop using that portion of the line once a subsidy deal with the province runs out on Sept. 30.
It plans to continue operating the rest of the 395-kilometre line, which stretches from Truro to Sydney.
MacLellan says the mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Cecil Clarke, and regional council are working on some new business opportunities for the line.
At last week's meeting in Sydney, MacLellan told the audience the rail line is "absolutely necessary" for the survival and the development of the Port of Sydney.
He said more details on the companies hoping to set up shop are forthcoming.
Port Hawkesbury Coun. Joe Janega said he is optimistic that port development possibilities in both Melford and Sydney will attract investment to the railway.
'Once they see what we got … the options are endless' - Coun. Joe Janega, Port Hawkesbury
"Once they see what we got … the options are endless."
Sean Burke, the general manager of Polysteel Atlantic Ltd., a North Sydney-based company that has been shipping rail for 25 years, said Friday’s meeting was a huge success.
"I think when you can bring this many different parties around the table and build a consensus like this, it builds optimism for the users," he said.
MacLellan said he'll meet next week with the economic development minister to seek help from the federal government to keep the rail line open.