The Saskatchewan government says it has reached deals with three shortline railways in the province to sell the Saskatchewan Grain Car Corporation’s fleet of 898 hopper cars.
Big Sky Rail Corp. (663 cars), Great Western Railway Ltd (150 cars) and Great Sandhills Railway (85 cars) have committed to buying the fleet for $9.7 million, or an average of $10,800 per car, according to the province.
“With approximately 14 years of service life remaining, the fleet still has value in the industry,” said David Marit, Minister Responsible for the Saskatchewan Grain Car Corporation. “Selling the cars to our shortlines means they will continue to move commodities grown by Saskatchewan producers.”
Saskatchewan’s 13 shortlines were given first priority to purchase the cars through the sales process that began in March. The province says all offers were reviewed by an evaluation committee which included representation from the SGCC, Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, an independent consultant, legal counsel and a fairness advisor.
Public ownership of hopper cars dates back to the ’70s when the federal and provincial governments (Saskatchewan and Alberta) bought over 19,000 grain cars to be used by CN and CP.
As of 2015, the Canadian Canola Growers Association reported this publicly-supplied fleet was estimated to be down to just over 13,000 cars, with the federal government owning around 8,400, G3 (formerly the Canadian Wheat Board) owning just over 3,200, and the Alberta and Saskatchewan governments owning around 900 each. Some have been refurbished, but it’s estimated most have a remaining operational life of less than 10-15 years.