Article: Cities urged to back link

Cities urged to back link

Darren Bernhardt, Saskatchewan News Network; CanWest News ServicePublished: Tuesday, September 04, 2007

SASKATOON -- A rail link between Saskatoon and Regina could foster a lucrative economic corridor, but those cities have to make a move before CN abandons a portion of the existing line, states a report going to city council tonight.

"These two cities are not unlike Calgary and Edmonton, which have recognized the economic corridor between them, and are considering improvements to the rail links including the potential of a rapid passenger link," states the report to Saskatoon councillors.

"Saskatoon and Regina, though not as large, will in the future, through their own growth, develop and support (their own) economic corridor. A rail connection ... could indeed benefit the development of the corridor."

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The idea was first raised in early June by Coun. Charlie Clark, who learned CN had applied to abandon the line between Regina and Craik.

He asked the administration to check on the status of the line and the potential impact it could have on the future transportation strategy for Saskatoon and surrounding region "as this is the only direct rail corridor connecting the two main urban centres of the province.

"And given that rail transportation is one of the most efficient forms of travel in terms of greenhouse gas emissions" it makes sense to protect and pursue it, he said in an interview Sunday.

City administration is requesting council give it the go-ahead to contact the City of Regina to develop a strategy on the potential line abandonment by CN.

"While (forming the corridor) may not be feasible tomorrow, we should at least protect those lines for down the road," said Clark. "Once any part of that chain is broken, it becomes less feasible to create that corridor."

According to the report from the administration, there are currently no CN or Via Rail trains that travel between the two cities. CN operates one freight train, once a week, between Saskatoon and Davidson to service grain elevators.

Since 2001, the railway has not operated freight trains between Davidson and Regina.

"While this decision (to decommission the line) may be understandable at this point in time, there may be longer-term consequences for both Saskatoon and Regina," the report states.

"It could benefit both (cities) to ensure that the corridor is not lost permanently. Therefore, we are recommending that the two cities voice their concerns."

Clark is not certain how the process would work, but believes the provincial government would be "an essential player in purchasing or taking over control of the line."

"As gas prices continue to climb and we keep with our recently announced strategy to reduce greenhouse gases, we have to look at more efficient ways to get around," he said.

There is a lot of travel between Saskatoon and Regina that already exists and will only grow heavier as the cities get bigger, he said, timely noting the Roughrider fans who make the trek to Regina for games like the Labour Day Classic "and all the Rolling Stone" concert-goers.