Sask. backs new northeastern shortline

A Canadian National Railway (CN) spur line in northeastern Saskatchewan, set to become the province’s 14th shortline this spring, has picked up provincial financing.

The provincial government on Wednesday announced an interest-free loan worth about $550,000 for Kinistino-based Northern Lights Railroad to buy 59 km of track from Melfort west to Birch Hills on CN’s Tisdale line.

Northern Lights Railroad formed in 2013 as a steering committee of municipal officials after CN added the line to its list of track to be discontinued. The shortline company, through the RM of Invergordon, put in an offer on the rail line in May that year.

“We look forward to being a fully-operational shortline, including opening our two loading facilities in the near future,” Northern Lights president Wayne Bacon said in the province’s release.

The shortline, which also runs through Kinistino, Weldon and Beatty, would connect at Birch Hills with OmniTrax’s Carlton Trail Railway, which runs through Prince Albert to connect with CN’s line at Warman, north of Saskatoon.

Financial terms of Northern Lights’ deal with CN haven’t been released, but the province’s rail line loan program, operated by the highways and infrastructure ministry, has previously loaned applicants up to a third of the purchase price.

According to a report filed with the RM of Birch Hills in early 2014, the program offers a 15-year loan term with payments beginning in the fourth year.

“Retaining rail infrastructure is important for supporting agriculture and economic development in the region,” said Bacon, a Kinistino farmer and former president of the Canadian Canola Growers Association.

“Throughout the purchase process, a good working relationship was established between municipalities and towns with great support from producers, and we had tremendous support from CN and the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure as well.” — Network

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