So what does $18 million buy? And is this a good investment by the governments?
I should say, what does $36 million buy, because some of the more recent articles about the announcement state that J.D. Irving will match the federal and provincial funds.
Given 90 miles of mainline track (Saint John to Maine border) and 34 miles of branchline track (St. Stephen line), that is an average of $290,000/mile.
A recent Iowa Department of Transportation analysis determined that rehabilitation of lines to 286K standards generally costs about US $265,000/mile. That falls very much in line with the figures above.
The newer articles (below) talk about upgrading the line to the the 286K standard. Many of New Brunswick's railway lines can only handle cars that weigh up to 263,000 lbs. Most class 1 railways in North America, aka the larger ones, handle cars up to 286,000 lbs and more. It makes it hard for shippers to send cars across the continent when they can only use 263,000 pound cars.
This upgrade will allow easier interchange of traffic. Marwood (just north of Fredericton Junction) is quoted as saying they will use the rail line once it is upgraded. I should point out that Marwood is owned by J.D. Irving, as are all the newspapers quoted below.
I know there are people who say government should not invest in private companies, and in general I agree with that. But a railway is not exactly a private company - it provides a public service as a transportation corridor. Governments should be very involved in transportation, especially to promote greener, more fuel efficient transportation methods such as railways. I would much rather see $18 million of my money go to a railway than to build a few miles of twinned highways for more gas guzzlers.
I also know many people don't think the Irvings should get any public funds. Ask yourself if NB Southern was owned by a publicly-listed company, if you'd feel any different. Irving has their faults but they have done a lot for New Brunswick.
I think this is a good investment by the federal and provincial governments.
More coverage: NB Business Journal, Daily Gleaner (again), Telegraph Journal.