Canada’s shortline railways play an outsized role in the communities they serve. Investments intheir infrastructure yield major and myriad returns.Posted on
Case in point: La Société de Chemin de fer de la Gaspésie (SCFG).
SCFG CEO Luc Lévesque recently detailed how the company is rehabilitating aging infrastructure
and investing in climate resiliency so it can contribute to the regional economy for generations
RAC: How are infrastructure investments playing a role in shaping the SCFG’s future?
SCFG: The Chemin de fer de la Gaspésie was built for the most part on the seashore along the
Baie des Chaleurs and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It has been particularly affected in some
sections by coastal erosion, which is increasing with climate change. Our network also includes
65 bridges, many of which are over 100 years old. The poor condition of this infrastructure has
led to the closure of much of the network for over 10 years. This resulted in the cessation of
passenger service and the impossibility for our freight customers east of our network to be
served directly, not to mention the loss of rail access to the Port of Gaspé. These investments
are essential to ensure the reopening and sustainability of rail operations to Gaspé.
RAC: Tell us about how the first $35M tranche of funding announced on September 14 will be
used and how it plays into the broader commitment made by the Quebec government earlier
SCFG: The first tranche will be used to rebuild coastal protection and retaining walls, and to
move the track inland in several places to reduce its vulnerability during storms. This
investment is in addition to the $870 million announced by the Quebec government for the
rehabilitation of bridges, culverts, tunnels and track.
RAC: Quebec’s Deputy Premier and Transport Minister says this is an investment in
sustainable development. How does the SCFG plan to maximize the return on investment
when it comes to green transport / sustainability?
SCFG: By providing direct, local rail service to the largest companies in the Gaspé region, as well
as direct access to the Gaspé wharf and the CN network, SCFG will be able to offer a green,
cost-effective transportation alternative. Numerous projects, including some related to green
energies, will see their realization facilitated or even become possible thanks to access to rail
transport. The SCFG also plans to get involved in facilitating the return of passenger transport
to Gaspésie as quickly as possible.
RAC: How will these investments allow you to grow your business and your impact on the
SCFG: The SCFG is a 100% regional organization, and almost 90% of its revenues are reinvested
in the region. We are dedicated to the development of regional rail transport, and have
repeatedly implemented innovative solutions to enable our customers to ship their products by
rail. In fact, since the creation of the SCFG in 2007, rail shipments from the Gaspé region have
increased by 800%, despite the closure of 65% of the network in 2012. Also, our trains have
carried $1.3 billion worth of exported goods since 2013. By regaining access to the entire
network in 2026, we will be able to continue expanding our operations and enable regional
businesses to have access to a safe, reliable rail network and thus pursue their development.
RAC: How do these investments contribute to the SCFG’s resiliency and sustainability – when
it comes to climate change, economic diversification, and other aspects of those terms?
SCFG: With access to a longer, more reliable network, the SCFG will be able to diversify its
operations and offer more and more opportunities for rail transport in the Gaspé region. This
will increase the resilience of our organization, and enable us to pursue our development.
RAC: How well do people in the communities you serve understand the importance of
railways’ investments in infrastructure – to safety, reliability and supply chains?
SCFG: Gaspesians have always taken their railroad to heart. In fact, they’ve been fighting to
keep it in operation since 1987, when the Canadian Transportation Agency first authorized its
closure, only to change its mind. In fact, the SCFG Board of directors is made up of elected
officials from the region, most of them mayors. For many, the completion of the work and the
return of the train to Gaspé in 2026 will be the culmination of many years of mobilization!
RAC: What does the future hold for the SCFG, its employees, and its investment plan?
SCFG: We currently have 45 employees. Our revenues are set to double next year, and that’s
not all, as we have other major transportation projects in the pipeline. We’re very confident
about the future, and very proud to offer a green mode of transportation for our entire region,
and to contribute to its development!