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Cape Breton University receives $610,000 for light rail line feasibility study


The train tracks in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality have been abandoned for nearly 10 years, but there is a new proposal to get passenger rail in the area back up and running.

"You've got a facility in North Sydney, you live in Glace Bay, you could take the train,” said Cape Breton University president David Dingwall.

Dingwall said a battery-powered train, which is being touted as Atlantic Canada's first light rail line, might be a big advantage for CBU students and the community at large, particularly given transportation challenges that have occurred as a result of the municipality’s growing population and influx of international students.

"Well if you go to Europe, the Go-Train is the thing, in the sense that you get on a Go-Train and you're somewhere else in 11 minutes,” Dingwall said. “So you wouldn't have to buy a car. You'd have to buy a ticket."

"If it's feasible, it will happen, but we've got to determine that first,” said Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston.

Houston confirmed the Nova Scotia government is spending more than $600,000 to support a feasibility study for the light rail proposal.

Earlier in the week, the province discontinued its longtime maintenance subsidy of the Cape Breton rail line.

However, Houston said he sees potential in CBU’s idea.

"Certainly this is something that's over $100 million, I would think, but we'll see what the numbers look like and 'What are the benefits? What's the cost?' and we'll kind of weigh that up,” Houston told CTV Atlantic on Friday.

Currently, many sections of the tracks along the former Cape Breton-Central Nova Scotia rail line are overgrown with trees and shrubs, since the Cape Breton section of the line was discontinued by then-owner Gennessee & Wyoming in June 2014.

Dingwall confirmed there has not been any consultation yet about the new proposal with CBRM.

Municipal Councillor Eldon MacDonald said while the idea may seem far-fetched, and it's been floated in Halifax without success, a feasibility study paid for by the province is at least worth looking into.

"I guess when you first read it, you wonder 'How's that going to happen?'", MacDonald said. "I think there's other opportunities there, so if light rail would also be using that corridor then there's other partners that may be able to help share in that expense of the overall redevelopment of that line."

CBU’s community engagement program and special projects manager, Kent MacIntyre, said the university has been working with international engineering firm AECOM on a pre-feasibility study.

Dingwall said the institution also plans to ask various levels of government for funding, and to get a feel for what people around town think of the idea.

"Consultation with the municipality, that would certainly be number two. Number three is consultations with a variety of user groups,” Dingwall said.

Houston said he expects the first step, which is the feasibility study, will take a couple of months. 

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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