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Genesee & Wyoming railway sale finalized

Focus turns to government on future of Sault-Sudbury freight service

The Huron Central Railway has new bosses at the top of the pyramid.

The sale of short line railroader Genesee & Wyoming (G & W) to Brookfield Infrastructure and GIC of Singapore has closed.

The Darien, Conn.-headquartered carrier made the announcement Dec. 30.

G & W’s Canadian subsidiary, Genesee & Wyoming Canada of Montreal, operates the Huron Central between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury, and the Ottawa Valley Railway, which runs between Sudbury, North Bay and Temiscaming, Que.

The US$8.4-billion transaction – first announced last July – had been on hold pending a review by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

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Regulatory approval was finally granted this past fall.

The completion of the sale could have some bearing to as whether Genesee & Wyoming Canada continues to operate the Huron Central.

Back in October, the railway said it will drop service in early 2020 if it doesn’t receive a $40-million combined subsidy from the federal and provincial governments for track maintenance and crossing upgrades.

Genesee & Wyoming Canada operates the Huron Central through a lease agreement on the 278-kilometre-long CP Rail-owned track. The line feeds mostly steel and forest products onto CPs main cross-Canada line at Sudbury.

One shipper told Northern Ontario Business that Genesee & Wyoming’s drop-dead date is early March.

A spokesman for a regional stakeholder group, which has been lobbying Ottawa and Queen’s Park for infrastructure dollars to assist the railway, said the delays in the railroad's sale and the timing of the last fall’s federal election, had postponed the transfer of the funding.

The provincial government has been mum on a commitment to Genesee & Wyoming.

One Sudbury industry services company indicated they’ve been approached by two provincial cabinet ministers about their interest in doing a maintenance-and-operations partnership arrangement with the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, a Crown agency, thereby allowing Genesee & Wyoming to walk.

“This transaction is an excellent outcome for all G&W stakeholders,” said G & W CEO Jack Hellmann in a news release.

“For our customers, employees, and Class I partners, the long-term investment horizon of Brookfield and GIC is perfectly aligned with the long lives of G&W railroad assets. We look forward to building on G&W’s track record of safety, service excellence and commercial growth as we become an important component of a portfolio of global infrastructure assets.”

Genesee & Wyoming owns or leases 113 short line and regional railroads with 8,000 employees in 42 American states and four provinces, totally more than 13,000 miles of track.

The company also operates subsidiary and joint venture lines in Australia and the United Kingdom.

G&W’s common stock has ceased trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Under the terms of the sale, each issued and outstanding share of G&W common stock converted into the right to receive $112 in cash.