End of the Line: Eliminating Passenger Rail Service in Northern Ontario


Hazel Blanchette lives in Oba, Ontario. That’s mile 245 on the Algoma Central Rail. “I’ve lived here all my life. Which is long, long time.” Her chuckle is smoky and low.

“When I was born here there were quite a few people that lived here. There were two little hotels, two big stores and a big one-room school. There were a lot of trappers here and CN people. And we had a rail station- but that was torn down.”

Today, Oba is home to a big handful of about 16 or so diehards. “That’s just the way it is now,” she said and then changed the subject.

In January 2014 the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) announced that they were axing passenger service from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst. The decision came from Transport Canada who made the decision that the Algoma Central Rail (ACR) no longer met the criteria for the Remote Passenger Rail Program (RPRP).

RPRP “provides funding to ensure that safe, reliable, viable and sustainable passenger rail services are provided to certain areas of the country where these services are the only means of surface transportation for remote communities. Funding for both operating and capital projects is provided.”
In response to Transport Canada’s decision, BDO Canada LLP, Chartered Accountants and Advisors, prepared a preliminary report, dated April 11th 2014, Algoma Central Railway Passenger Service: Economic Impact Draft Assessment, “to compile available information and survey data to quickly respond to Transport Canada’s termination of financial assistance.” The overriding goal was “to make a case for and obtain a one year extension of federal support for the ACR service.”

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Northern Hoot is a district news partner with SaultOnline.com