Stakeholders send [Algoma Central] rail funding proposal to Transport Canada – by Staff (Northern Ontario Business – January 2015)

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Stakeholders vying to retain the CN-owned Algoma Central Railway passenger service between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst have sent a funding proposal to the federal government.

The stakeholders say the request would cost Transport Canada considerably less than its financial support of the service in recent years, and includes information from a third-party rail company that’s expected to take over the service in 2015.

“With a relatively limited investment, the federal government can keep this critical transportation line in operation,” said Joe Fratesi, chair of the ACR Passenger Service Stakeholders Working Group and CAO for the City of Sault Ste. Marie. “We look forward to hearing back from the Government of Canada in the coming weeks.”

Following a request for proposal process that saw three qualified rail companies bid to assume operation of the Algoma Central Railway passenger service, one bidder has been selected for final negotiations.

That followed a thorough analysis of the firm’s bid, which detailed plans to increase revenue and ridership by diversifying the types of tourism products and services available to passengers, as well as making the service self-sustaining within five years.

A letter of intent was signed with that company, and a definitive operating agreement is expected to be reached early in the weeks ahead, at which point the party will be identified.

According to an economic impact assessment from BDO Canada in 2014, the ACR passenger service generates between $38 and $48 million in annual economic activity, supports up to 220 direct and indirect jobs, and helps deliver more than $5 million in tax revenue to government coffers every year.

Formed in February 2014 after Transport Canada announced its intention to cut its annual investment in the Algoma Central Railway passenger service, the working group represents a larger committee of concerned regional stakeholders, including the City of Sault Ste. Marie, Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corp., Municipality of Wawa, Town of Hearst, First Nations, Township of Dubreuilville, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, Algoma Kinniwabi Travel Association, Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains, and land and cottage owners serviced by the ACR line.

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