Exactly one year ago today, the Algoma Central Railway passenger train made its last voyage from Hearst, Ont. to the Sault.
CN Rail made the announcement in a joint statement with the ACR regional stakeholder passenger service working group — at that time headed by Tom Dodds of the SSMEDC.
Just six days notice was given to camp and lodge owners along the line before the closure.
Last fall, CN declined requests from stakeholders to allow for a special running of the train to allow them to winterize camps and lodges.
During a June 2015 meeting of city council, Dodds recommended the city not sign a final agreement with Railmark Canada, Inc. to not allow the Wixom, Michigan-based company to operate the ACR passenger service due to ongoing financial challenges.
Railmark’s CEO B. Allen Brown’s offer to operate the passenger service on an interim basis was rebuffed and the working group’s search for a third party operator began anew.
Leadership of the working group has since been transferred to Chief Jason Gauthier of the Missanabie Cree First Nation.
This morning we asked various stakeholders and officials how they feel about one year of non-operation and what their hopes are for the future of the service.
We received no response from MP Terry Sheehan, Chief Jason Gauthier, Tom Dodds or lodge owner Al Errington.
SooToday received the following responses:
“I simply do not understand why it has taken so long for Transport Canada to get the passenger train serving us again. Under missanabie Cree first nation's leadership the strategic plan for running the service is an excellent one.” — Linda Savory-Gordon, spokesperson for the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains
“I’d like to recognize all of the stakeholders who have continued to advocate for the return of the passenger train. It has certainly been a difficult year. I remain hopeful that an arrangement can be found with the Government of Canada that will allow the service to resume operation.” — Christian Provenzano, mayor of Sault Ste. Marie
“The fallout of these decisions are not on Railmark's hands, especially when we offered a public month to month operating agreement which was turned down by those elected and some that are not elected working in the "best interests" of their citizens. These are the ones you need to get answers from.” — B. Allan Brown, CEO Railmark Canada, Inc. (edited for brevity)
“CN has no comment.” — Mark Hallman, communications and public affairs director, CN Rail