Ont. rail workers seek shortline support

Some of Ontario’s 14 shortline railways are at risk of being closed for safety reasons this summer without provincial support, a railway workers’ union warns.

Infrastructure on several of the 14 lines is “in disrepair and needs to be fixed,” said William Brehl, president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, maintenance of way employees division, in a Teamsters release Wednesday.

“Some track restricts trains to less than 20 km/h and there is a real possibility some of these short lines will close down as early as this summer due to safety concerns and operating inefficiencies,” he said.

And in view of the 60,000-plus jobs lost in Ontario in May alone, Brehl said, the province’s 14 shortlines are “important enablers of economic activity, especially in rural areas with agricultural and resource-based industries,”

The Teamsters are urging the Ontario government to join the Ontario Short
Line Railway Infrastructure Partnership, a move Brehl said would not be a bailout for the shortlines.

“It’s an investment between the companies and government; not only in creating Ontario jobs but in ensuring public safety,” he said. “We at the Teamsters do not always see eye-to-eye with the Railway Association of Canada, but this is a viable plan that creates jobs, protects public safety and the environment, and keeps vital links open to rural areas, particularly in Northern Ontario.”

Ontario’s shortlines, which connect communities to Canadian Pacific (CPR) and Canadian National (CN) main lines, provide “essential rail service to underserved areas of the province from Moosonee in the north to Amherstburg south of Windsor,” the Teamsters said.

The union said provincial support for rail infrastructure is particularly urgently needed “in the wake of rising train derailments like the recent ones in Oshawa that forced families from their homes and in the Ottawa Valley that dumped 20,000 litres of diesel into the waterways.”

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