White Pass pushes Yukon rail routes
The head of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad Company says he wants to bring back freight rail service to the Yukon, as the territory's mining industry is on the upswing.
White Pass president Eugene Hretzay signed a letter of understanding Friday with the Alaska municipality of Skagway, agreeing to push towards restoring rail service to Whitehorse and perhaps even through to Carmacks, Yukon.
Hretzay told CBC News the time is right for the Skagway-based company to get back to its original business of connecting Yukon mines to the outside world.
"I think the time has come to put it into place. We don't need any more consultants' reports." Hretzay said Friday.
Originally established during the Klondike Gold Rush to transport miners and freight, the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad currently offers scenic trips for tourists between Alaska, Yukon and northern British Columbia.
The Yukon's mining sector is expected to grow this year, with the opening of at least one new mine — Yukon Zinc Corp.'s Wolverine mine — in the coming months. The territory is already home to Capstone Copper Corp.'s Minto mine.
Seeks government money
But Hretzay said the Yukon government must invest some money if it wants the railroad to resume freight service to the territory.
"If the government wants me to go in there, maybe the government could give me some assistance — you know, something like maybe a forgiveable loan," he said.
Hretzay said he met with Yukon government officials on Friday to discuss the idea. There was no word on whether any substantive deal came out of those discussions, although Hretzay said he would extend the tracks to Carmacks if the government is willing to pay the way.
With government investment in the rail proposal, Yukon could benefit from job opportunities and corporate investment in the area, Hretzay added.
"I think that if, in fact, a rail alternative were presented to the capital markets, there would be much more interest in pushing forward with developments in the Yukon, even with a view of taking the railroad from Whitehorse to Carmacks," he said.
Hretzay added that the Yukon government should act fast, as money will drive how quickly the rail service can be restored.
"It's really incumbent on the governments as to how fast they want it to move," he said. "I'm a businessman and I would like it to move ASAP."
The municipality in Skagway is pursuing U.S. federal and state grants for things like dock improvements, Hretzay said.