It was the eve of April Fool’s Day when the news came, but it was no joke – passenger rail service on the Algoma Central Railway (ACR) will continue for at least three more years.
The Canadian government announced on March 31st that it will provide $5.3 million (over three years) in support via the City of Sault Ste. Marie for the northern Ontario railway to continue its passenger operations between the “Soo” and Hearst. Train travel between those two points first began in 1914.
In 2014, the federal government stated that it would no longer provide $2.2 million in annual funding after March 31st, 2015. Canadian National (CN), a freight railway which operated the passenger service, declared that without that support it would have to discontinue passenger travel on the remote and rural ACR line. A working group, the ACR Passenger Service Stakeholders, which has included passenger rail advocates, community leaders, and those served by the line such as First Nations, and owners of resorts and businesses, sprang into action to find a new third-party to take over the ACR line and its tour trains.
That new operator was found in Michigan-based Railmark Holdings, Inc, whose president and CEO is B. Allen Brown. Railmark was approved by CN to assume operations of the ACR passenger service, which is still technically owned by CN. The request for continued federal support was made to assist Railmark’s take-over of service, with Railmark claiming it will be self-sufficient in five years. The government’s announcement includes a proviso that a review will be conducted at the end of the three-year funding commitment to determine if further support is needed.
For further background on the ACR line and its passenger service, visit the Westernsreboot.com post ACR Set to Be Saved.
(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)