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With or without a new owner, tour train expected to run next year

CN has hired an investment bank to market ACR to prospective buyers
2014-05-31ACRSaultSteMarietoHEARSTDAY1KA19
Algoma Central Railway file photo. Kenneth Armstrong/SooToday

City officials are putting an upbeat spin on yesterday's news confirming that CN is preparing to sell Algoma Central Railway and its popular Agawa Canyon Tour Train.

"The city became aware of the sale prior to the asset being exposed to the market and we have been in consistent communication with CN and the investment bank it has hired to market the asset," Mayor Christian Provenzano tells SooToday.

"It is a very important tourism asset for our community and both the city and Tourism Sault Ste Marie will stay engaged in the process and work to ensure that the tour train has a bright future," the mayor says.

"We are confident that if we stay engaged and continue to stress the importance of the tour train to our community and Ontario’s tourism industry that the end result of this process can be positive."

Mathieu Gaudreault, senior public affairs and media relations officer at CN, confirmed to SooToday's Riley Smith that CN has initiated the process of selling the ACR line.

"Interested parties have been contacted and the process is ongoing. Since it’s a commercial process, we will not comment further," Gaudreault said.

"We've been in lots of discussions on this topic," said Tom Vair, who oversees the city's tourism staff as deputy chief administrative officer, community development and enterprise services.

"We don't think there's a downside right now, in that we're working with CN," Vair said.

"They're making all the plans to operate the train next year. Their approach is, they're going to get the train running. The sales process will follow its path. We anticipate that train is going to be running next year, either with CN or a new owner, and that the new train station will be used."

"The Economic Development Corp. worked closely with CN and the tourism staff in the past. They had 10-year agreements and really close collaboration in refurbishing the rail cars and working together to try and enhance the service."

"CN has acknowledged the jewel that the Agawa Canyon Tour Train is in Northern Ontario. It's one of the only signature destinations in Northern Ontario. I think in selling the line, it's a positive thing, a positive asset for anybody looking at taking on the ACR."

"We're working closely with them to make sure that we continue the good service, and continue to market and promote that asset worldwide. It's all been about finding a new owner, but in the meantime, operating that train."

"We'll continue to collaborate with CN on next year's service. We look forward to working with a new owner of the train, and we had engaged a consulting firm throughout last year to look at a new 10-year plan for the train. I think there's some exciting ideas that we can bring forward to the new operator, and look at how we can grow the Agawa Canyon Tour Train experience for visitors," Vair told SooToday.