November 21, 2014

The Gaspésie Railway Society in danger

The Gaspésie Railway Society has recently appointed Jacques Côté as interim president and director general. His mandate is to convince the Québec government for funding to upgrade the bridges so that the railway can increase its revenue and serve its current and future customers. This could allow VIA Rail to return to the coast. The Québec government has not given any money to the railway for some time and there is a danger that the railway will have to cease operations.

November 21, 2014

The Honourable Jean D’Amour
Minister responsible for the Bas-Saint-Laurent region and the Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine region

Dear Mr Minister,

We need our railway in the Gaspé. After decades of neglect by Canadian National and the Québec Railway Society, the state of the bridges have deteriorated to such an extent that they are not safe for most railway equipment. Current customers, Temrex of Nouvelle and Rail GD of New Richmond employ hundreds of people and rely almost exclusively on rail transportation. Temrex ships between 1,600 to 2,000 cars annually. Rail GD just signed a multimillion dollar contract with Rocky Mountaineer Vacations of British Columbia to refurbish some of its rail cars. This will be the largest contract for Rail GD and they expect more in the near future. Our tourist train l’Amiral in its second year of operation is poised to become profitable. It provides a way to show off our region to tourists, especially from the cruise ships that come to the port of Gaspé. Other customers are Fabrication Delta of New Richmond and grain shippers in Caplan.

New customers, like the Saint Elzéar sawmill are waiting to ship lumber and woodchips from New Carlisle. They know that shipping goods by rail is cheaper than truck for medium and long distances. When the cement plant opens in Port Daniel in late 2016 or 2017 they will need the railway. Another potential customer is LM Wind Power in Gaspé. When the railway line is fixed they can ship windmill blades to the United States. Since Orleans Express is cutting service in the Gaspé, we could have our VIA Rail train back when the line is repaired. This service is subsided by the federal government.

Once the infrastructure is in good shape, the Gaspésie Railway Society will be able to operate at or near break even. A railway benefits the economy and results in more good paying jobs. The Government of Québec must step up, possibly with help from Ottawa, and provide the funds to invest in the future of the region.

Yours sincerely,

Barry Brake
Montreal, QC

Transport 2000 Québec
The Gaspé Spec