Transportation agency orders city to restore rail line

City officials are considering asking for a judicial review after a federal agency ordered them to restore a portion of rail line leading to the Prince of Wales Bridge or move to permanently discontinue it.

City contemplating judicial review of Canadian Transportation Agency order

The City of Ottawa ripped up a section of rail line running to the Prince of Wales Bridge and has been ordered to restore it. (CBC)

City officials are considering asking for a judicial review after a federal agency ordered them to restore a portion of rail line leading to the Prince of Wales Bridge or move to permanently discontinue it.  

The Canadian Transportation Agency released a decision Friday, which would force the city to either try and sell the line, which could lead to it being permanently closed if there are no buyers, or restore it to a state where it could be re-opened to rail traffic within 12 months.

As part of light rail construction, the city removed a section of the line, running north of Bayview Station toward the bridge.  

The CTA charges the city should have followed a formal discontinuance process before simply removing the line from service.  According to the Canadian Transportation Act, when an owner wants to discontinue a line they must first offer it up for sale and negotiate in good faith with any potential buyers.

Moose Consortium Inc., a group that has had ambitions of offering rail services to outlying communities in Quebec and Ontario filed the initial complaint with the agency in 2016, highlighting that the rail had been removed and a permanent structure built on top of it. The CTA requires rail line owners to notify them if they plan to discontinue a rail line, which the city had not done.  

Reviewing decision

The city responded to an earlier judgment from the CTA by indicating they could restore the connection within two years and the Prince of Wales Bridge within three years.  The CTA asked for expedited time frames for that restoration, which last fall the city declined to provide. Instead, according to the CTA's judgment released on Friday, the city accused the agency of overreach.  

"The city added that it was of the view that the agency did not have the proper jurisdiction and was exceeding its statutory authority," reads the judgment.

In a memo to councillors, the city's solicitor Rick O'Connor said they were reviewing the decision because the costs to restoring the line would be significant.   

"That review is intended to inform a recommendation as to the next steps to be taken in this matter, which may include a request for judicial review," he said.