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Saskatchewan renews grant program for short line railways

Saskatchewan's Short Line Railway Improvement Program is on track to deliver $530,000.

The provincial funding is designed to help short line operations with infrastructure and maintenance costs through a 50/50 grant program.

Highways Minister Jeremy Cockrill announcing the funding at the AGT terminal (parent company for Mobil Grain and Big Sky Rail) just south of Delisle on Wednesday.

He says under the program, all 13 provincially regulated short lines have access to the funding based on the amount of track they operate.

"That's really going to help in the safe and efficient movement of ag products all over our province as our short line railways gather those goods and get them to our two major carriers to head to our export markets around the world."

Big Sky Rail is eligible for roughly $87,000 in funding

President and CEO Murad Al-Katib says the financial support we have received from the provincial government is welcome not only to our operations, but for the efficient operations of the network of short line rail in the province.

"The funding helps maintain and improve our infrastructure, which ensures safe and efficient rail service which is critical to support producers, as well as exporters of agricultural and other commodity products across Saskatchewan."

The 50/50 matching grant under Saskatchewan's Short Line Railway Improvement Program will assist with track upgrades and expansion, improved crossing surfaces and sightlines, bridge maintenance, track rehabilitations and more.  

Based on the amount of track they operate Great Western Railway in the south west will be eligible for $129,909. 

Andrew Glastetter is President of the Western Canadian Short Line Railway Association and General Manager for Great Western Railway (GWR).

"This allows us in many cases, to be more sustainable on the safety side and be able to keep moving the traffic at efficient speeds and handling, you know, the heavier axle loads and things like that."

GWR usually spends around $4 million a year on track infrastructure which includes labor, materials and changing out rail ties.

Glastetter says they are looking at doing some tie replacement programs, noting they usually change out more than 20,000 rail ties per year and any worn steel that may need to be changed.

Other funding allocations for the 2022-23 Saskatchewan's Short Line Railway Improvement Program include:

Southern Rails Cooperative: $25,000
Carlton Trail Railway: $37,515
Red Coat Road & Rail: $25,000
Thunder Rail: $25,000
Wheatland Rail: $25,000
Torch River Rail: $25,000
Great Sandhills Railway: $43,089
Last Mountain Railway: $29,155
Stewart Southern Railway: $28,297
Long Creek Railroad: $25,000
Northern Lights Rail: $25,000

Saskatchewan has 13 short lines operating on 2,122 kilometres of track with grain being the main commodity being moved.

Glastetter says short lines account for about 25 per cent of all track lines in the province.

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