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Lease renewal on hold as Uxbridge offers ultimatum to heritage railway


UXBRIDGE: Long-standing issues between the municipality at the York-Durham Heritage Railway (YDHR) over issues including rent payments and the general upkeep of the area around the train station have derailed talks of a lease extension for the tourist attraction to use the train station and platform in 2024.

The current lease between the municipality and the YDHR is set to expire on December 31st, and the township has served notice that until certain conditions are met, they will not negotiate a new pact with the railway operators.

Following an in-camera session at their meeting on the morning of Monday, December 11th, councillors moved to deny YDHR’s request for a lease extension after receiving a confidential report from CAO Kristi Honey.

Councillors unanimously approved the motion put forward by Deputy Mayor Willie Popp on the matter, which stated “that report CAO 15/23 be received for information and that council direct staff not to engage in any lease extension discussions or terms and conditions regarding a new lease with York-Durham Heritage Railway until the following outstanding matters are resolved: full compliance with all township orders; no funds in arrears; removal of all four identified rail cars, including any contaminated substances; site cleanup to the satisfaction of building services, community services department, by-law department, and fire department. Failure to fulfill conditions as per this recommendation, York-Durham Heritage Railway is to deliver vacant possession of the premises effective December 31st.”

In an interview with the Uxbridge Cosmos last week, Ms. Honey noted that while the outstanding funds have been paid, other issues remain to be addressed ahead of the looming deadline. Over the weekend, YDHR shared a video on its social media channels of rail cars which were mentioned in Popp’s motion being dismantled due to the presence of asbestos and lead.

The train station and platform are leased by YDHR from the township. Metrolinx owns the railyard, as well as the rail lines, and leases them to the municipality, which then subleases them to YDHR in a separate agreement.

Over the past week, YDHR has been busy rallying for support on social media, noting that the railway brings thousands of tourists to the township and that it intends to continue operations in Uxbridge.

In a statement, YDHR noted that “(we do) not comment on pending potential litigation or legal processes, but we do want to reassure the public that after 25 years of faithfully bringing hundreds of thousands of tourists to the community, including last weekend with almost 5,000 visitors to Uxbridge over three days, we remain open for business and for future events.”

Over the weekend, the township’s bylaw department visited the area on several occasions into the evening hours ticketing cars that were not parked in designated areas. Meanwhile, the YDHR has noted that they believe that Metrolinx is the owner of the platform and explained that “tickets for next year will be up for sale soon and we assure you that nothing in your experience will change, except that the township will not allow you to view the 100-year-old station as a part of your visit.”

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