Deadline looms for passenger rail service in Algoma

Advocates for rail service in the Algoma region say passenger trains will come to a halt at the end of the month without a deal with the federal government.

'There are resorts who are all booked up for this summer and they are frantic'

Passenger rail service will stop at the end of the month between Sault Ste Marie and Hearst unless a deal is reached with the federal government. (Supplied)
The communities and businesses that rely on the Algoma's passenger rail have spent the last year wondering what comes next for Algoma Central Railway. 5:43

Advocates for rail service in the Algoma region say passenger trains will come to a halt at the end of the month without a deal with the federal government.

In February of 2014, CN Rail announced it was ending passenger service between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst because the federal government was no longer willing to subsidize the route.

The federal government stepped in at the last minute to extend funding for an additional year to keep the trains rolling and allow time to make a business case for the service.

This line is one of the very few lines in Canada that goes through territory where there are just no roads-  Linda Savory-Gordon

That one-year reprieve is almost over and there's been no word from Transport Canada about what comes next for the rail line, which is the only way to access remote lodges between the Sault and Hearst.

"There are resorts who are all booked up for this summer and they are frantic and wondering if they are going to have to contact their clientele and tell them that there is no way they can come in," said Linda Savory-Gordon with a group called the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains.

"This line is one of the very few lines in Canada that goes through territory where there are just no roads. That's a very growing population now of tourists who want to go to places where they can only go in by train or small plane."

Transition plan submitted

A group of stakeholders has recruited a third-party operator called Railmark to provide passenger service on the route and a transitional funding proposal for $7 million was submitted to Transport Canada, Savory-Gordon said.

The group estimated the continued operation of passenger rail service in the area would bring in at least $124 million in economic benefits over the next five years and would support more than 375 direct and indirect jobs.

If there is no response from the federal government before the end of the month, passenger rail service on the route will stop, Savory-Gordon said.

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