TRENTON – Now is the time to revive railcar manufacturing at the former TrentonWorks plant, Roger Langille says.
The former Pictou County resident, who has lived in Vancouver for more than 20 years and has been involved in numerous business ventures, says Pictou County is falling further behind the longer the plant remains idle while a receiver decides what bidder should be allowed to purchase it.
He says the Trenton plant has the potential to produce freight cars that were built there until nearly a decade ago and he has been trying to form a company to do so. More products – such as passenger cars, locomotives, light rail cars and street cars – could also be built there if the right group is allowed to buy and operate the plant, he said.
Rail companies crave bigger fleets of smaller locomotives to avoid the repair cost for each idle unit, he said.
“I’ve approached people to put up money (to buy the plant),” Langille confirmed.
“We can build all this equipment. There is a need for new rolling stock, repaired cars – everything. This is the greatest opportunity TrentonWorks will see in our lifetime.”
He said governments in countries are helping firms in urban centres around the world meet the demand for more rolling stock of all kinds.
“Infrastructure money is coming down the pipe,” he said. “Cars are being built now and we’re running out of time. All these cities are not going to stop because we aren’t doing anything. We have to have a company that wants to do this.”
For Langille, building railcars in Trenton would complete a 40-year circle in his life. He recalls being in his mid-teens in 1976 and working an afternoon shift in the tank plant welding tanks together, at a time when the plant was a major employer in Pictou County, and earning a forge ticket after taking a course at the Nova Scotia Community College.
Langille says he has discussed resurrecting the plant with the MacNeil Liberal government and is taking the government at its word that it wants to revive the plant.
“The Premier’s Office has confirmed to me that’s its number one priority,” he said.
“I wouldn’t get involved unless they were serious.”
The wrench in the gears for Langille is that he’s not the only bidder the receiver, David Boyd of Price Waterhouse Coopers, is considering.
Calls to the receiver had not been returned as of press time on Tuesday.
“I was led to believe I was the only player back in June,” Langille said. “Apparently, there is another bidder I didn’t know about.”
Despite the recent developments, Langille’s quest to build railcars again in Trenton coincides with attempts by DSME to branch out from its initial agreement with the former NDP government to build wind towers in Trenton.
The Department of Business began filing for receivership proceedings after DSME Trenton informed the government on February 18 that it was ceasing operations.
At the time the company reported employing 19 people and assets that included several million dollars in cash, equipment and property.
The former railcar plant, at various times during its heyday, employed several thousand people.