Critical funding deadline looms for Huron Central Railway in northern Ontario
Huron Central Railway says it needs almost $20 million from Ontario to qualify for survival funding from feds
The Huron Central Railway says it wants to keep rolling in northern Ontario — but first it needs the province to commit to making that happen.
The railway says it needs $3.7 million per year for five years from the government. If a provincial commitment doesn't come through by Nov. 6, the railway says it will not be able to apply for survival funding from the National Trade Corridor Fund.
Algoma-Manitoulin NDP MPP Michael Mantha says the rail service is a key one for many businesses in northern Ontario.
"We need the province to step up in order for [Huron Central Railway] to be able to secure both federal and provincial funding so that ... they can see their future, jobs can be kept, and that we can keep all of these extra good off of our roads," Mantha said.
This is a much-needed method of transportation for a lot of industry- Algoma-Manitoulin NDP MPP Michael Mantha
Without any funding, HCR says it will cease operations in 2018.
Mantha says 64 per cent of its business originates in the Sault. The line runs from the Sault to Sudbury, moving steel from the Algoma mill, paper from Domtar and lumber from Eacom.
Mantha says the issue of rail service in northern Ontario is one that isn't going away.
"You know, if we're looking at northern Ontario, this is a much-needed method of transportation for a lot of industry," he continued.
"Not only freight, but we really need to challenge ourselves to come up with a real strategy for passenger [rail] and have it return to northern Ontario."
No positive response — yet
When contacted by CBC News, railway representatives said they advised the provincial and federal governments of the impending need for funding to upgrade the railway infrastructure and to maintain the rail service.
Officials said they found an opportunity with the federal government through the National Trade Corridors Fund, but would need partner funding from Ontario to put the application through.
"Although representations were made to, among others, the department of transport and the department of infrastructure of Ontario, neither has provided a positive response," they stated in an email.
"HCR needs $46 million of funding over 5 years, including $5 million to come from HCR, to secure its future. As we have explained many times, HCR is the only economical transport option for Algoma Steel and many other customers along the line. Although revenue on the line is not sufficient for HCR to fund the upgrades solely on its own, there are significant public benefits to saving the rail service; hence the request for public funding."