Rail line should not be sold


Sir: I spoke at the last council meeting, asking council to reject the proposed sale of the assets of WDC Rail, the legal name for the rail line that runs from north of Wallaceburg through Dresden to Chatham.

I did this not because I believed that the line would ever operate again; clearly there is no demand for that route; but because I believe the track should be converted into a multi-use trail, a policy that Council has supported on the Entegrus property south of Chatham.

But selling the line would prevent this and deny access to it for both current and future generations of residents and tourists.

The sale also presents a number of other problems which were never addressed when the item was reached on the agenda. The most important of these are the future of the Black Bridge in Chatham and preserving rail access to Wallaceburg and the future of the Wallaceburg swing bridge.

The Black Bridge in Chatham is a useful way to cross the Thames River, and while it has a bad reputation, it could be re-decked to include a better cycle track and possibly a single lane car bridge. It would open up the east end and present a useful north-south route – but this was never discussed.

Preserving rail access to Wallaceburg has been identified as important in rebuilding the community’s industrial sector, the part of the route that should be kept is the connection to the CSX track at Highway 40 north of Wallaceburg through to the industrial area of on both sides of the Sydenham River, and that means the retention of the Wallaceburg swing rail bridge – but this to was never discussed.

While an offer of $5 million sounds like a lot of money, it must be remembered that the rails alone are worth around $3 million, the track ballast is valuable and perhaps is worth $1 million and so you are selling a strip of land 46 kilometres long and perhaps 10 metres wide, for perhaps $1 million to $1.5 million, and, as mentioned earlier, denying access to it for both current and future generations of residents and tourists – forever.

I had hoped that council would decide not proceed with the sale and to begin consultation with residents to discuss possible future uses for this rail line. They chose instead to sell the property, and not to consider the points I had raised.

As the song lyrics say, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.”

John Willatt





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