NEW RICHMOND — The Société du chemin de fer de la Gaspésie has a fourth traffic record in a row for its freight transportation service between Matapédia and Caplan. This carrier under municipal control will be routed around 4300 cars in 2018, an increase of 54% over 2017.
Between 2016 and 2017, the Société du chemin de fer de la Gaspésie (FMAS) had also seen a strong increase in traffic of 60%, a situation attributable to the transportation of the blades in wind turbines, and to a lesser extent at the beginning of the activities of the cement plant in Port-Daniel, 18 months ago.
In 2018, the growth in shipments of blades to the south of the United States has continued, while the transport of cement has increased tenfold, from 111 cars last year to about 1 000 in 2018. Nearly 1800 cars of the blades have been shipped, while the forest products of the Temrex plant in Nouvelle have been loaded in 1 500 rail cars of wood chips and lumber.
“The growth is expected to continue into 2019. It is expected to exceed 5000 cars. We will not be far otherwise. We are expecting an increase in the cement because the Cement plant McInnis increases its production. It is the customer who has the last word. We do not control the mode of shipping, but if we keep the same proportion of a plant increase of production, the tonnage passing through the rail will also increase,” says Luc Levesque, director of the FMAS.
Between 2015 and 2018, the operating revenues of the FMAS have increased tenfold, rising to a range of $ 5 million to$ 9 million. The direction of the carrier prefers to give an order of magnitude rather than a precise figure.
The number of carlots of forest products will increase in 2019 because the drying capacity of the sawmill Temrex will increase, and because a new customer is added, the co-operative Association forest of Saint-Elzéar, which will load lumber in New Richmond.
“Generally, when the drying capacity increases, as in Temrex, the wood is sent away. When the distance increases, the rail is an advantage. In the case of the factory of Saint-Elzéar, we don’t have a date but we know that the shipments are expected to start in 2019,” said Mr. Lévesque.
The transport of rotor blades wind turbines should be maintained during the new year, as the plant LM Wind Power in Gaspé routes all of its production by rail.
The implementation of dormancy in 2015 for the portion of the network from the gaspé located between Caplan and Gaspé, which represents 60% of the 325 miles between Matapédia-Gaspé, represents a barrier to the growth of the traffic of the FMAS. This decision was taken when the ministry of Transportation of Quebec has acquired this railroad, following the financial troubles experienced by the FMAS at the end of 2014.
This dormancy was denounced by the leaders of the socio-economic of the Gaspé region because it affected while the main area of growth in rail potential of the region. The factory blades LM is situated at the end of the network, in the Gaspé peninsula, and the cement plant in Port-Daniel, then, by construction, is also localized on the portion dormant.
The blades and the cement are transferred by truck between Gaspé and Port-Daniel-on the one hand, to a trans-shipment centre temporary installed in New Richmond. In the case of cement, a second trans-shipment centre has been built to be New, because two bridges are located in Cascapedia-Saint-Jules can only pass a limited number of loaded cars per week.
As these bridges have not been replaced, the cement will not be loaded directly at the factory in Port-Daniel. The rail network runs through the middle of the complex. The reopening of this stretch will reduce the delivery of cement by truck over shorter distances, such as to New Brunswick, because the costs of transhipment disadvantage currently the rail.
Luc Lévesque fervently hope that the replacement of the bridges, Cascapedia-Saint-Jules to be completed by the end of 2020. “It is still possible but we have no control over that. The bridges cross a salmon river and there are approvals to obtain. The folder is managed by the BQI (Bureau québécois des infrastructures),” notes Lévesque.
This organism has inherited from the folder to rebuild the railway from the gaspé when the ex-prime minister Philippe Couillard has decided to give the green light to its reconstruction, on may 5, 2017, by means of an announcement of$ 100 million. Until then, its government, in the midst of austerity, was delayed to commence the upgrading works.
Special Collaboration Gilles Gagné
NIGHT AND DAY FROM 2014 TO 2018
NEW RICHMOND – “It is far from chasing the money to put fuel in our locomotives.” It is as well as the president of the Société du chemin de fer de la Gaspésie, Eric Dubé, summarizes the difference of the realities faced by his company, since the financial difficulties of four years ago and the current situation.
Controlled by the four MRC in the south and the tip of the Gaspé peninsula, the FMAS has survived to the intervention of the trustee in November 2014, and Transports-Québec, which bought the railroad for the value of the receivables at the beginning of 2015, has maintained the FMAS as the operator of the trains and the basic maintenance of the stretch.
Of seven employees in 2015, the FMAS employs 31 people now. “We’ll hire again in 2019,” stresses director, Luc Lévesque. He also plans to install nearly two miles of new tracks to facilitate switching to New Richmond. Significant investments are also made in equipment, including two locomotives, adding to the four that the FMAS had already.
The main customers of the FMAS are among the largest private employers in the Gaspé peninsula, with 485 workers at LM Wind Power, while nearly 200 people gravitate in the operation of Temrex, and 153 Cement McInnis. A workshop for repairs of railway equipment, Rail GD, also employs about thirty people in New Richmond.
2015 : 1 624 (cars)
2016 : 1 741
2017 : 2 786
2018 : 4 300