New Brunswick

Miramichi mill wants CN rail line reinstalled

A Miramichi mill is fighting to have a CN Rail line reinstalled after it was ripped up this week.

Company planned to ship lumber, wood chips in May

Miramichi Lumber planned to ship lumber and chips to Saint John by train beginning this spring. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

A Miramichi mill is fighting to have a CN Railway line reinstalled after it was ripped up this week.

Miramichi Lumber had plans to ship 600 rail cars of wood chips and 100 cars of lumber per year to Saint John by train beginning this spring, said Hal Raper, the company's chief financial officer.

"I was pretty disappointed. We were in negotiations to commence moving chips to Saint John to the Irving facility starting in May," said Raper.

But now it looks like the company will be forced to truck out its product at a much higher cost.

Raper said workers began ripping up the line on Wednesday.

He said he can't understand why CN is turning away an estimated $1 million worth of business from the mill.

"I think it's part of a bigger plan to abandon the northern line," he said.

But CN said that's not the case.

Jim Feeny, a CN spokesperson, said CN removed the about 610 metres of heavy steel from the rail line so they could reuse it, replacing worn lines elsewhere.

Declining traffic

Feeny said the line outside the mill hasn't been used in seven years and CN will consider reinstalling it if Miramichi Lumber can provide enough business to justify the expense.

But Raper said he is skeptical.

"I think once they take it up they will never put it back down," he said.

"I don't think it is right. I think there is a responsibility to keep the rail lines. Northern New Brunswick is a resource-based community and it needs the rail to transport goods."

Raper said he plans to meet with CN later this month to fight to have the line reinstalled.

Last summer, CN Railway said if it didn't receive $50 million from the New Brunswick government and other partners, it would have to discontinue part of the Newcastle Subdivision service by March 2014.

Declining traffic volumes and infrastructure costs to keep the 224-kilometre stretch between Catamount, just west of Moncton, and Irvco, 32 kilometres west of Bathurst, operating, were creating annual losses, said the company.

About 12 to 15 customers use the line.

The company began the discontinuance process for the line under the Canada Transportation Act after working for several months with the province and customers to find solutions.

At the time, Transportation Minister Claude Williams said the province "would not be the sole stakeholder dealing with the Newcastle line."