[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he ACR Passenger Service Working Group is looking for third-party firms and organizations that are interested in operating the Algoma Central Railway passenger service between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst, Ontario. A request for Expressions of Interest (EOI) was issued today. The purpose of this non-binding invitation is to pre-qualify companies to participate in an upcoming Request for Proposal (RFP) process that will identify one or more parties to be part of a stakeholder plan to have a third party operate the ACR passenger rail service.
The Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, on behalf of the ACR Passenger Service Working Group, issued the EOI with the endorsement of CN, which owns the rail line and Algoma Central Railway Inc. Proponents have until September 19 to make submissions. The EOI is available online at www.algomapassengerrail.com.
“Stakeholders, through their own efforts, were successful in working with CN and the Federal Government to keep the ACR passenger line operating in the short term, and we’re now focusing on long-term solutions,” said Working Group member Tom Dodds, CEO of the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation. “If there are any rail companies or other parties that are interested in operating the ACR passenger service, we’d like to hear from them. We encourage everyone to get the message out about this unique passenger service opportunity.”
In parallel, CN issued a separate EOI today related to its Agawa Canyon Train Tour. The company is seeking a qualified third-party operator to run the regional tourist attraction. CN’s core business is running a freight railway, and it believes a qualified third-party operator could capitalize on opportunities to grow the tour train service, leverage back office functions and market the product effectively. The two EOIs are separate undertakings, though parties may consider submitting an Expression of Interest to both.
“This is a critical step in our efforts as key stakeholders to secure the future of the ACR passenger service,” said Working Group member Sylvie Fontaine, Executive Director of the Hearst Economic Development Corporation. “Stakeholders represent a broad range of people, tourists, businesses, communities and First Nations who depend on the passenger service. “There are significant opportunities to increase ridership and revenues while, at the same time, reducing costs. As a group of well-organized stakeholders who represent interests along the railway and throughout the region, we are keen on working with a private, third-party operator to enable it and the passenger service to be successful.”
The ACR Passenger Service Working Group, which represents a larger committee of interested stakeholders, consists of individuals from the City of Sault Ste. Marie (its CAO chairs the Working Group), Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, Municipality of Wawa, Town of Hearst, area First Nations, Township of Dubreuilville, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie (representing local tourism operators), Algoma Kinniwabi Travel Association (representing regional tourism operators), Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT), and land and cottage owners serviced by the ACR passenger line.
“This is another opportunity for First Nations in our area to work with our neighbours, fellow stakeholders, other governments and the private sector to develop a successful outcome for the mutual benefit of the region, province and country,” said Working Group member Jason Gauthier, Chief of the Missanabie Cree First Nation, which is part of the Northeast Superior Regional Chiefs’ Forum. “We see a number of opportunities to support the sustainability and growth of this important passenger rail service. The Northeast Superior Regional Chiefs Forum is pleased to be a partner in this initiative.”
For more information about the ACR Passenger Service Expression of Interest, please visit www.algomapassengerrail.com or contact Tom Dodds, from the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, at 705-759-5432.