Scotia Rail Development Society! Save the Rail Line!

About Us

    Scotia Rail Development Society was set up in April, 2015, by citizens of Cape Breton and Northern Nova Scotia when they heard that the owner of the rail line, Genesee Wyoming, were planning to abandon the Cape Breton section of the line. Their plan was to sell or use the rails in other places.

Under the chairmanship of Dr. David Rae, dean of the Shannon School of Business, a strategy is being developed. The committee includes representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, the Cape Breton Partnership, BCA Group and a variety of business leaders. The general public is now being invited to join the society.

    A provincial committee has been set up to examine options that are available to the government. While the group heartily supports the efforts of Transport Minister Maclellan, they feel that more initiative must come from the local community. To better inform the public, meetings have been held in North Sydney, Iona and Sydney. More meetings are planned.

Website Link:

Our Mission Is Fourfold:

  1. Explore various options for continuation of the rail service to Sydney, Cape Breton
  2. Demonstrate the vital importance regionally in order to support the continuation of the rail link to Sydney, Cape Breton
  3. Support efforts to ensure continuation of the rail link to Sydney, Cape Breton
  4. Secure in perpetuity the right of way of the line

Latest News Link:

1. President's update    By Dr. David Rae

2. Highway or the railway for freight?    By Dr. Greg MacLeod

3. Why are we organizing a community movement to maintain our railway    By Dr. Greg MacLeod

4. Brief History of Rail in Nova Scotia    By Dr. Greg MacLeod

5: Further six months needed for Cape Breton rail abandonment     By Greg McNeil - © Cape Breton Post

6: Rail or road? Let’s weigh our freight options    By Dr. Greg MacLeod

7: Cape Breton railway’s future focus of public meeting Friday    By Chris Shannon - © Cape Breton Post

8: For sale: Cape Breton railroad      By Tom Ayers © Chronicle Herald - Cape Breton Bureau

9: Cape Breton group aims to protect rail service     By Tom Ayers © Chronicle Herald - Cape Breton Bureau

Subscribe to our eNewsletter

Contact Information

Dr. David Rae   [email protected]
Dr. Greg MacLeod   [email protected]
Elva Zhou    [email protected]

If you are concerned about rail development in Cape Breton and would like to be a member of Scotia Rail Development Society, please contact the emails listed above, visit our website for updates, and subscribe to our eNewsletter. We really appreciate your interest and support! Thank you. 

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James MacKinnon Follow Me
Many people fail to realize how relevant rail remains today in many areas, the downside of course being the significant cost of upkeep and expansion. The romanticized idea of passenger rail probably isn't feasible in Cape Breton, at least in terms of saving the entire existing line. Maybe a smaller section that could supplement current transit options and provide additional access to more rural areas beyond the reach of the current bus routes? Don't expect maglev bullet trains of course. Which leaves commercial/industrial as the most likely candidate (in my opinion). Kind of a chicken and egg when it comes to the current state of industry in Cape Breton. On one hand, the cost to keep the rail is so high, on the other hand, if Donkin or Sydney Port projects take off, we'll probably be kicking ourselves for not maintaining the infrastructure. If the choice is made to abandon it, I hope we can take a page from PEI's rails to trails initiative, as I know the current tracks in Cape Breton trace some very scenic areas of the island. Additional costs for sure, but much easier to tackle in small sections at a time.
Rory Andrews Follow Me
Does anybody wonder why there's still people in trains driving them? I mean, we're so close to autonomous cars, and they have to drive everywhere all willy nilly. Trains are literally on a line. There was a train crash not too long ago caused by the engineer speeding through a turn. I thought to myself "Why was someone even driving it?" Planes can land themselves now, but we still need a guy at the front of a train? Back to the topic at hand, I think rail will come back if the port gets built. It only makes sense. Shipping by rail is way cheaper than by trucks, and it's much better for the roads. If volume goes up, it's a no brainer for a company to come and invest in Cape Breton rail when there's money to be made. I'd also take the train to Halifax, and finally be able to stick it to Air Canada.
Christian Murphy Follow Me
I just signed up for the news letter, seems I missed the meetings as I wasn't aware they were taking place. I did see some of the pictures, the young people must have all been sitting in the nose bleed section of the bleachers......sarcasm! So where do I stand? I want the businesses who depend on the railway to succeed yet I also would like to see the railway succeed on the fact that it is sustainable. At the moment there are a lot of ifs.....if we get the port developed, if we can shift the trucks to rail (by the way, that is favoring one business over another. Just saying), if CBRail Society can take ownership, if, if and probably a dozen more ifs. If Marine Atlantic would commit and pay that would be a good if. The issue is sales and that is what the railway requires thus we need to find stuff to ship off the island by rail. If I am not mistaken, the big challenge here is we have full cars entering with empty cars leaving. Rails need to be used in both directions and be able to compete with trucks.
Elva Zhou My Post Follow Me
Thank you for your interest and support. I like your point. There are lots of ifs, but I still believe collaboration and action will make a difference. The CBRM could make the best use our resources and everything will be fine. I think the railway development will be sustainable and the successful railway will bring lots of benefits back to the community. The most important thing is we shouldn't be afraid of making changes and moving forward. That will just stop everything.
Christian Murphy Follow Me
Hi Elva, first off, nice to meet you albeit virtually. Change is not the issue here, it's the only constant. We as a community need to identify things that can be shipped by rail, unfortunately this will simply shift the work from one provider to another and not create something new.......Marine Atlantic seems to be the best partner on this, unfortunately they have their own financial issues. Elva, Cape Breton is not a manufacturing hub, there are few if any items that can't be produced cheaper in other places in the world and I fear the railway will received financial support that may serve only to delay the inevitable. Can Scotia Rail Society publish the business case?
Elva Zhou My Post Follow Me
Nice to meet you here and thanks for your comments. Scotia Rail is a new community group and we'll publish the voice of our members and show some data and facts to support our project. We are working on it and we'll keep the public informed on our progress. Thank you.
Christian Murphy Follow Me
That's great Elva, transparency is a rare commodity these days and you appear to be committing to keeping people informed.....that will surely help the cause.
Mathew Georghiou Follow Me
Elva, I have to say that this is a really great post and a really good use of I like how you provided a brief overview of your group with a summary of your mission, then a list of links to news reports about your activities, followed by contact information of people to connect with. Whether one agrees with this cause or not, you are providing an effective way for them to learn about the issue from your group's perspective. Nicely done!
David Rae Follow Me
Elva is doing a great job to open up communications on the rail issue. I've added an update which will be on the Scotia Rail Development Society website & e-newsletter soon. The main news is that the 3 reports commissioned by the Ministers rail committee are delayed, that group now expected to meed mid-July with the reports available 'end of summer'. They are critical in providing the information base to evaluate future options for the line. We'll press to get the information out there, soonest.
David Rae Follow Me
Chronicle Herald rightly asks why the 3 studies commissioned by the NS Govt on the future of the Cape Breton rail line have yet to appear. MLA Alfie MacLeod is right to ask when we will see these.
David Rae Follow Me
I have been invited to the next meeting of the Ministers Rail Advisory Committee in Port Hawkesbury on 30 July. If there are any points or questions that members of Scotia Rail Development Society or interested members of the community would like me to raise at the meeting on the rail issue, please let me know via this forum. I understand the 3 reports on the line are expected to be published not too long after the meeting. Thank you.
Christian Murphy Follow Me
Unfortunately I don't understand the problems well enough to form an intelligent question. Perhaps that's the question, what are the top 5 problems? The show stoppers.
David Rae Follow Me
Christian, Thanks - that is why we need these reports to be public - so we can all understand what the issues are.
Elva Zhou My Post Follow Me
Check out our latest news: Campaign for CB rail about to enter a new stage !
Richard Lorway Follow Me
Interesting. Will you be posting links to the report here?
Elva Zhou My Post Follow Me
Three reports commissioned by the Provincial Government are expected to be shared with the Ministers Rail Advisory Committee on Thursday. If the reports are open to the public, I will definitely post the links here. If not, we will share the major points and comments about the reports after the MRAC meeting. Thank you for your interest, Richard!
Elva Zhou My Post Follow Me
"Groups try to keep Cape Breton rail effort on track"
Elva Zhou My Post Follow Me
Our rail line is closing and being abandoned by stealth After Rail operator CBCNS closed the Cape Breton rail line to freight traffic last December they continued to use it for occasional locomotive movements to Sydney for repair & maintenance. The return of the last two locomotives from Sydney this Friday looks certain to be the final operation on the line. They are understood to depart Sydney after 8am Friday morning. After that the yearly track inspection is required in order for CBNS to continue using the line, but this will not take place and CBNS will cease all movements after this week. Please take the final opportunity to see a train pass on the line but do not risk trespassing on rail property. The move by CBCNS is in our view in breach of the decision by the Nova Scotia Utility & Review Board on 15-1-15 that the operator must, during the discontinuance period up to October 1 2015, deliver goods by rail if that service is reasonably required by a shipper. Will the Provincial Government uphold this decision? Meanwhile we have asked Minister Geoff MacLellan repeatedly when the three reports he commissioned which will determine the Provincial Government decision on the line will be made public but he will not give a date for this. All we hear is that the future of the line is now up to the CBRM and Mayor Clarke. The Minister says there is plenty of time to resolve the rail issue but as soon as trains stop running the prospects of saving the line are reduced. We fear the Cape Breton rail line is being closed and abandoned by stealth. If you are concerned then raise this with your MLA and ask candidates for the two Federal MP election seats in Cape Breton what they will do to retain the rail line. Thank you Scotia Rail Development Society
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