Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark has spoken with officials at Canada’s two rail giants, but “they’re not jumping” at the idea of rail line relocation.
On Monday, the City of Saskatoon’s transportation director told city council that staff were awaiting a response from Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway and Canadian National (CN) Railway about an idea for the companies to share a rail line south of the city.
If enacted, CP trains could travel around the city rather than cut directly through it, which causes traffic delays at major thoroughfares like Idylwyld Drive.
“Admittedly, they’re not jumping at some of these ideas, so we need to continue to engage strategically and directly,” Clark told Global News during a year-end interview.
Council’s briefing came roughly one week after a CP train derailed near Lanigan, Sask., and released 1.5 million litres of crude oil into the environment.
An earlier study from consulting firm HDR Corporation provided what Clark calls a “very speculative option” to spend nearly $600 million to move CP’s line from the heart of Saskatoon to the city’s outskirts.
“We’ve heard very little willingness from the rail lines to be part of the funding or the paying for that,” Clark said.
According to the mayor, his “very honest and direct” conversations with CP and CN have included understanding their future business plans and how they might align with the city’s growth projection.
A CP spokesperson referred Global News to its website for a response to rail relocation in any municipality. It states the company may participate in studies to move rail lines out of cities.
“However, relocation of rail lines and yards is a complex and serious issue which would involve CP, local and national customers, regulators, local community organizations and all levels of government,” the statement reads.
A review would be needed to determine customer service impacts, and the full cost to all parties, “which will be significant,” according to the statement.
Alexandre Boulé, CN’s spokesperson, said track relocation is “complex and costly, involving many stakeholders.”
“CN is discussing about our operations with Saskatoon, including potential solutions and their impacts,” he said in an email.
Should a solution be reached, Clark said it won’t happen overnight.
As a result, he said the city continues to work on making rail crossings safer by using an intelligent transportation system. The method alerts emergency vehicles of crossings where trains are moving, and redirects them to other routes.