Province backs southern Man. shortline

The Manitoba government has put up a $615,000 forgivable loan to support a shortline railway primarily for grain growers between the communities of Manitou and Morden.

Boundary Trails Railway Co. (BTRC), formed in June last year by a consortium of farmers, community and business leaders in the south-central region, succeeded this spring in saving a total of 140 km of former Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) track from being pulled up for scrap.

The total purchase price has been funded through producer-raised equity and private loans. BTRC’s business plan is to operate the track from Manitou to Morden and salvage the line it also owns between Killarney to Manitou. Manitou is about 35 km west of Morden, which in turn is about 110 km southwest of Winnipeg.

BTRC’s plans earlier last year had also included buying the western section of CPR’s track between Pilot Mound and Holmfield, Man., but CPR had already sold the salvage rights for that stretch to Cando Contracting of Brandon, Man., which had already begun to take up the track for salvage before BRTC could muster sufficient funds and support.

“Maintaining this short-line railway will help support shipments of grain and other commodities in the area,” provincial Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk said Wednesday in announcing the loan.

“In addition, shortline railways help reduce greenhouse gases and help reduce infrastructure costs by reducing road and highway traffic, as grain destined for producer cars needs only to be trucked to the local short line, as opposed to longer hauls to mainline elevators.”

The forgivable loan is provided with the condition that BTRC repay all provincial funding if its railway is sold in whole or in part, Wowchuk said.

“BTRC will be the first short line in Manitoba owned primarily by producers and we appreciate the support the province has shown with this financial contribution,” BTRC president Kevin Friesen said in the province’s release.

“It has been encouraging to see local producers band together to raise the equity needed to purchase the line. The directors of BTRC are optimistic that local producers will see the benefits available to them from using the shortline. We already have many orders from producers for cars to be delivered later in May.”

The shortline company plans to offer freight and producer car services for the region’s grain farmers and businesses, and has contracted with Central Canadian Railway to provide car hauler, maintenance services, links with major railroads on traffic and delivery issues, snow clearing and “basic administrative” services.

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