Cowford wrote:Because they realize you can't make a bad route good by painting the locomotives green. Up & over and down & around (in the case of PAR) are better options than being burdened with maintaining/operating hundreds of miles of main track.
I disagree. Its not a "bad route" at all. With current traffic levels its an anchor bringing CMQ down. But add in CP oil trains in 2016 and it'll survive until the magic date of 2022 when the CN/Irving deal expires . Thats when Irving will pounce. Irving was smart to hold off and let someone else (RA) buy an unpopular fixer upper and allow them to try and make a go at it all along knowing that the majority of their Midwestern bound traffic was going "up and around" by contract with CN. When the CN contract expires they put 100% of their outbound traffic over the Mattawamkeag/Moosehead line to Montreal and it becomes another conveyor belt for them. Mix in any Potash CP might gain back, IM to Saint John and any Auto and/or RO/RO traffic they can keep and it becomes a 2-3 train each way line again. Lets not forget as well that their is some originating traffic in the Eastern Townships that can blunt the additional 290 miles of maintenance. Getting to greater Montreal allows them to play all four Class I's off each other either by direct connection (CP, CN) or connecting carriers (CSX, NS).
As KSmitty points out, the line has value as a integrated conduit for maritime traffic. I see the line surviving and being maintained by RA until said time that Irving makes them an offer they can't refuse and makes the line whole again and runs it the way some here believe it will prosper.
If we are talking rail politics, I agree with much of this. I think this line has viability but has not had a fair chance. Now there are a lot of things happening that might bring this line back to booming.
Two stand out to me
1.) The Saint John Container Port Expansion project ($205M upgrade or rail, port, and marine infrastructure)
This speaks for itself.... MSC is already having weekly calls to Saint John (sometimes more than 1 a week) and I expect MSC is the driving factor behind this (or someone else). Clearly they wouldn't put in this type of investment if they didn't have some sort of preliminary commitments for increased traffic.
2.) Norfolk Southern purchase of D&H (And investment in PAS)
In my mind, this is huge. Besides the fact that NBSR officials were hanging out with NS folks a month ago, NS having greater access to New England opens up a huge opportunity for oil intermodal and auto traffic to Saint John. NS doesn't have access to Buckeye, so they can route oil trains NS-PAS-VRS-CMQ-NBSR. In the coming years, we might see this skinny down to NS-VRS-CMQ-NBSR or even NS-VRS-NBSR. Also, you open up the connection to run intermodal to the southeast US via NS. Hopefully Pan Am can get their act together and work on a competitive CSX-PAR-NBSR routing that is faster than the existing service.
The CMQ era may be long or short lived, I really think it is 50/50. But I think it is a necessary transition since the MMA disaster. NBSR with the attached Irving name would not have been a good move with the whole Lac Megantic disaster. Now you have CMQ who is good at PR, and disaster recovery. They put in some of their own money (when is the last time someone did that?) to work through some of the deferred maintenance issues . The reunificaiton of the two halves, plus the former B&A system would no doubt make a powerhouse regional RR with Saint John, Bangor, Searsport, Northern Maine as a large anchor, and the east/west line as a competitive option to bring goods to market. Also, Sherbrooke to Montreal has a fair amount of customers, and even Greenville, Jackman and Brownville have some prospects for business (Jackman has a sawmil, Greenville looking at chip loading and Brownville pulp).