The Chief of the Missanabie Cree First Nation says he's optimistic passenger rail service could soon resume along the Algoma Rail Line in northeastern Ontario.
Passenger train service on the CN Rail-owned line between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst was discontinued in 2015. Since then, a coalition made up of area residents, municipal officials, First Nations and businesses has been working to get it restored.
"We've had some good discussions with CN, some open discussions with CN," said Jason Gauthier, the chief of the Missanabie Cree First Nation.
"I think we've had some good discussions with [Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada] and I think that we're looking forward to continuing being out there and pushing this as hard as we can."
We're looking forward to continuing being out there and pushing this as hard as we can -Chief Jason Gauthier
Funding is an issue, Gauthier said, which the group is discussing with INAC and Transport Canada, but he added that's not the only hurdle.
"There's definitely more to it ... I wish it was as simple as that," he said. "We have to make sure it's a service that's run safely and we have to make sure that we continue to have a good relationship with all parties involved."
Money needed to fund the operation of the line would likely come from Ottawa or another funding body, Gauthier said.
Lodge and property owners along the line are frustrated the service hasn't been restored yet, Gauthier said but added that he hopes his community's optimism for the project "is infectious."
Restoring the Sault-to-Hearst passenger service is one of the projects being undertaken by the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains, the multi-stakeholder, not-for-profit group dedicated to enhancing passenger train service in the Algoma district and neighbouring areas around Hearst and Sudbury.
The group is holding a silent auction and concert fundraiser April 6 at the Algoma Water Tower Inn and Suites in Sault Ste. Marie, with money going towards continuing efforts to get the rail service up and running.