Short lines benefit economy and environment
Published: June 11, 2008
Source: Railway Association of Canada

Ottawa - A new study for the Railway Association of Canada and the Ministry of Transport for Ontario says short line railways contribute up to $1.2 billion in economic and social benefits to Ontario’s economy.

"Short lines are an integral part of Ontario's transportation network and play a key role in economic development and environmental sustainability. In order to intensify trade and to stimulate economic growth, Ontario must have the capacity to transport goods safely, effectively and efficiently. The railway network plays a key role in providing this service," said RAC President and CEO Cliff Mackay. The cost of the study was shared by the province and the railways.

Approximately 400 employees work for the shortline railways in Ontario. They earn $20 million in wages annually and contribute $7 million in federal and provincial taxes. The shortlines support local industries whose total revenue is estimated at $4 billion annually. “That illustrates the dynamic relationship between transportation and industrial production,” said Mr. Mackay.

“Demand for rail services will increase as trade with Asian-Pacific markets continues to flourish,” he says. “We improved our rail freight emission figures in the province significantly, and we appreciate the province’s on-going support.”

Smog-forming oxides of nitrogen are down more than 28 per cent, carbon monoxide is down 50 per cent and CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases are down some 23 per cent since 1990. Rail carries 64 per cent of surface tonne-kilometres of freight and 66 million passengers but only produces three per cent of transport’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Canadian freight railways now move 169 revenue tonne-kilometres of freight for each litre of fuel they consume, an improvement of some 30 per cent. Short lines in Canada now originate more than one million carloads of traffic, more than double the volume of a decade ago.

An opinion poll in January 2007 found that 26 per cent of Canadians said that the environment was their top issue, up from just four per cent in 2005. Rail has worked hard to get its own house in order, and, with the right public policies, will do even more, said Mr. Mackay.

Rail currently transports more than 100 miles of train a day cross border between Canada and the U.S. and the federal government recently doubled the Capital Cost Allowances rate for new and rebuilt electric locomotives from 15 to 30 per cent. The recent federal budget also had good news for rail passengers and commuters by establishing a new $500 million transit trust fund which will further improve passenger rail services.

Major Canadian railways will invest almost $2.5 billion dollars this year in order to maintain their infrastructure and ensure that they can move their goods in a safe and cost effective manner. “A number of short lines have partnered with the federal government and other provinces to upgrade their infrastructure. We’re hopeful that we can do the same in Ontario in the near future,” said Mr. Mackay.

VIA is investing almost $700 million to upgrade locomotives, passenger cars and infrastructure improvements to add new services and increase capacity. The work will free up one rebuilt power unit from the three now required in western service for additional train services planned in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. The study was carried out by CANARAIL consultants of Montreal.