SAULT STE. MARIE -- The owner of a freight rail line between the Sault and Sudbury says it's ending operations of the line at the end of the year.

The American-based firm, Genesee & Wyoming, said without government funding to help fix the rail line, it won't delay the shutdown of the Huron Central Railway any longer.

"Right now, everybody is talking about restoring the economy or getting us back to work," said Joe Fratesi, a former Sault mayor who has been working to save the railway. "Not investing in the railway is counter productive to that goal of our senior levels of government."

Fratesi said talks were progressing well earlier this year, resulting in the company delaying its March 31 deadline. The pandemic only extended that decision further, he said, with the company understanding the government's role had shifted.

But now, he said the provincial and federal government's unwillingness to meet the asking price - around $40-million - is irresponsible.

Compromise safety

"If we lose that line, Algoma Steel alone will need another 40,000 transport trucks to keep up with shipments," he said. "In terms of the highway itself, adding 40,000 more transports would be very, very difficult and would compromise whatever safety we currently have."

Another company that's expected to take a huge hit by the loss is Espanola-based Domtar. The town's deputy mayor said he's urging senior governments to step in.

"In a period where they're spending tens of hundreds of millions of dollars trying to save jobs, this is not the type of thing that they should be allowing to happen," said Bill Foster.

Threatening to shutdown the line is nothing new. Two years ago, they asked the Ford Government for $1 million to fund the railway's operations.

In 2009, the company gave notice it planned to close, leading to the City of Sault Ste. Marie to fork over a $33-million subsidy for repairs.

But this time, the city's CAO said the threat is a more serious.

"The official process to shutdown has begun, leaving a short window of opportunity available," said Malcolm White. "But we're hopeful that while the small window of opportunity remains, that something can be worked out."

The company said a total of 43 jobs will be lost should the shutdown continue. However, Fratesi said the task force and company will continue to try to broker a deal until the very end.