Railmark Canada Limited announced today that the Company, an authorized Canadian rail carrier, is proposing a new passenger train service from Hawk Junction, Ontario to Hearst, Ontario in order to accommodate those tourists, businesses and communities that are without critical needed rail service due to the impasse between the Railmark and the City of Sault Ste Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC).
This new rail service would target northern Ontario tourism growth by carefully coordinating with VIA Rail, service connections at Franz and Oba, creating a reliable network for passengers traveling to and from points along the Canadian rail network, including Toronto.
Additionally Railmark will offer shuttle service to and from Sault Ste Marie and Chapleau to extend the network’s reach.
Eventually when the passenger train issue is resolved in Sault Ste Marie, the two rail networks can be easily combined.
In the meantime passenger train service can be provided to the stakeholders north of Hawk Junction and the tourism industry can begin to rebuild.
This new service would provide three round trips per week through the remainder of the 2015 tourist season, dropping back to two round trips over the winter, adjusting for the anticipated new tourism coming to the area for winter outdoor sports, such as snowmobiling, ice climbing and ice fishing.
The planned 2016 schedule will see six trains per week.
The network’s reach is expanded with shuttle service to and from Sault Ste Marie and Chapleau.
The new focus also provides for increased tourism in Wawa.
The cost of the service would be roughly 50 percent of the amount required for Railmark’s Sault Ste Marie to Hearst service, while the total number of passengers served plus potential guests would exceed 75 percent of the original plan’s forecast.
Additionally this rail service would achieve self sufficiency in less than five years as opposed to the full Sault Ste Marie to Hearst rail plan.
Railmark would create a stakeholder’s advisory board, including representation of a recently formed, non-profit organization promoting the interests of the rail line’s northern stakeholders.
This project would be mutually exclusive of any efforts currently being taken by SSMEDC in their efforts to restore rail service.
On May 1st, 2015 Railmark Canada Limited acquired the Sault Ste Marie to Hearst passenger train rights from the Canadian National Railroad and assumed operations on that day.
The City of Sault Ste Marie, through the SSMEDC, applied for and received funding for the train service using a five-year plan developed by Railmark which achieved financial self sufficiency by the start of year six, thus eliminating the need for continued taxpayer assistance.
The SSMEDC’s role is to be the conduit for the flow of funds and provide stakeholder representation.
As a Canadian rail carrier, Railmark Canada Limited will be making its own application for funding once it has communicated its plan with the northern stakeholders and communities along the line.
The funding request can be made through Railmark (a rail carrier), another city, or a First Nation.
Due to the emergency nature caused by the stoppage of passenger rail service to the northern stakeholders, Railmark will seek to expedite the funding approval process.
Even though Railmark remains committed long term to the full Sault Ste Marie to Hearst Passenger Rail operation and its plan to make the entire project financially sustainable and reduce the government subsidy, the Company wants to respond immediately to the needs of the northern Stakeholders without the impediments and influence currently in the way with the SSMEDC.
B. Allen Brown, CEO of Railmark Canada Limited commented, “It’s unfortunate that decisions have been made by individuals who are not experiencing the consequences of those decisions. This rail line is 296 miles (476 kilometers) long and Sault Ste Marie is at the southernmost end. True connectivity with the national rail network is on the north end of the line and those stakeholders and communities need service now, actually yesterday. These communities, businesses and citizens have just as much right to contribute to their future as anyone else and Railmark’s plan provides a way forward to serve the needs of the northern stakeholders who depend on this rail line for their livelihoods.”