HALIFAX: The government is providing funding to cover expenses related to a local rail line.

Last week, the provincial government signed an agreement with Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway Ltd. for the preservation of the rail line between St. Peter’s Junction (near Port Hawkesbury) and Sydney. The agreement means the company will not abandon a portion of the line and the government will provide up to $60,000 a month to cover the line’s expenses for a year. The expenses include items such as salaries, insurance, security and building maintenance.

“As the conversations about the Port of Sydney and the potential container terminal materialized, the reality is that those conversations would be over if there wasn’t a secure rail line,” said Geoff MacLellan, Minister of Business.

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“We’ve had a storied history with Genesee & Wyoming [parent company of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway] who signaled to abandon that line a number of years back. They’ve been increasingly included and interested in the prospects in Sydney for a container port. They would like to stay on and be a part of that development if it does materialize.”

MacLellan said the agreement provides a level of certainty when it comes to the rail line as it pertains to potential developments like the Melford Atlantic Gateway project for Guysborough County.

“We’ve said all along as a government we are not going to build container ports and this has to be private sector driven, but if we can lend assistance on the infrastructure side, we would certainly do so,” he said.

“We’ve made that commitment to Sydney, we made it to Melford, we made it to Halifax. If there are ways we can help support a potential pitch for them we would make those investments.”

MacLellan said Genesee & Wyoming also owns the rail line between St. Peter’s Junction and Truro. With the potential for the Melford container terminal project, MacLellan said there could be a number of investment decisions the Melford team might ask the government to make.

“The door is always open to have those discussions,” he said. “We want to see a container port developed in Nova Scotia but we’re going to let the private sector decide where it is going to be. We’re only going to participate on the infrastructure side but if we can be of assistance to a pitch like Melford’s, then we’d certainly be open to do that as well.”