Montreal's Genesee & Wyoming Canada announced that its northeastern Ontario short-line carrier, Huron Central Railway (HCRY), will cease operations by the end of this year.
The rail carrier's board of directors met in early August to confirm the decision, according to a company news release. The final train will run sometime in December, the railway said.
The railway employs 43 and services Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, Domtar's pulp and paper plant in Espanola and EACOM's sawmill operation in Nairn Centre.
The company is waiting on Ottawa and Queen's Park to put together a $40-million package for track maintenance and safety upgrades to the 288-kilometre line.
The threat of closure by Genesee & Wyoming has been an ongoing and repeatedly chronic issue since 2009.
“This was a very difficult decision, and we have been working hard to avoid this outcome. As a company, we are not in the business of closing railways,” said Genesee & Wyoming Canada president Rick McLellan in a statement.
“We had hoped to come to an agreement with the federal and provincial governments on our proposal to collectively invest in the necessary rehabilitation of the railway infrastructure. While we have had constructive discussions with both governments, we have received no funding commitments. We cannot delay this process any further and now must regrettably take this step," he said.
The line is owned by Canadian Pacific but is leased to Genesee & Wyoming to provide regional service for industrial customers to feed CP's main line at Sudbury, providing more than 12,000 carloads of freight annually. CP does not provide any funds for track maintenance.
The company makes the point in its news release that without a railway, steel and forest products will likely migrate to trucks.
Genesee & Wyoming's original deadline to cease operations was last March but was extended due to progress made in discussions with the government and due to the pandemic.
“We are disappointed that we have not been able to find a long-term solution to save this strategic asset working with our federal and provincial partners,” said McLellan.
“We know how important this transportation link is for many of Northern Ontario’s largest employers and communities along the railway. Sadly, we have reached the point where further delay would be irresponsible, but we will remain at the table working until the very end to try to avoid the inevitable. We want to thank the community leaders, businesses and elected representatives who fought alongside us seeking to keep this line open."