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Historically, the rail lines in Cape Breton are best known for their substantial role in the coal and steel industries and, sadly, also their decline as those industries faded away.
Yet, despite their prominent connections to coal and steel, rail lines played many other important roles in the life of Cape Bretoners.
For more than 100 years, the railway carried people to and from Cape Breton as well as between communities on the island. The railway moved freight and people, and provided jobs in large numbers. Jobs were created directly with their own employees and indirectly through companies whose products and services they used and/or transported.
Over the last several years, there has been much discussion about the feasibility of a container operation in Sydney. A primary prerequisite to this type of port development is the presence of a fully functioning railway to transport goods to Halifax, the rest of Canada and the United States.
Cape Breton, whose sole overland means of export is by truck, would greatly benefit from being able to rail commodities, bulk and other resources and products directly to and from the United States.
By reactivating the Sydney rail line, Cape Breton would be able to quickly and economically ship goods through the port for rapid interchange onto the rail system bound for other parts of Canada or export to the United States.
In developing its strategic plan, the board and management at the Port of Sydney Development Corporation considered growth in the entire harbour to be a driving factor for the island economy. That is why we are strong advocates for rail and port projects such as the upgrading of rail and the container pier.
Cape Breton has a chance to capitalize on our naturally occurring competitive advantage, which is our strategic location and uncongested deep-water port.
A study commissioned by the port’s board of directors confirmed that the railway between Sydney and Truro could be made operational to accommodate sea containers for approximately $103 million. Despite the current economic woes associated with COVID-19, the port will continue to be a strategic asset for tourism and transportation.
With stimulus projects on the horizon we encourage the federal and provincial governments to partner with the private sector and upgrade our vital rail link. Rail has become an environmentally and technologically superior transportation mode in the modern economy. Cape Breton cannot lose this asset as once rail lines are removed they will be difficult and inordinately expensive to replace.
This article first appeared on www.capebretonpost.com
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