Ex-Algoma Central Passenger Service to End

Yet another passenger train in Canada is falling by the wayside. With the pending April 1 end of financial assistance from the federal government, Canadian National has decided to discontinue its tri-weekly local passenger service over the Algoma Central Railway between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst, Ontario.

The last train will be southbound No. 632, which will depart Hearst on Sunday, March 30.

It would be the second loss of passenger train service in Ontario in less than two years. In September 2012, Ontario Northland discontinued its Northlander trains between Toronto, North Bay, and Cochrane.

Those trains were replaced by buses, but that is less likely to happen with the Algoma Central route trains because they serves areas that cannot be reached by any other form of transportation.

The government of Ontario or some other governmental entities may yet step forward to underwrite the Algoma Central local service, but it is not clear if that will happen.

The Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains said the service was similarly threatened in 1995, but communities, businesses and other users of the passenger train successfully reversed the decision.

CAPT said its board members and supporters have been contacting municipalities, First Nations, business owners, camp owners and others to find out more about the decision to end the service and how it can be reversed.

The summer/fall Agawa Canyon tourist rain, which operates over 114 miles of track between Sault Ste. Marie and Agawa Canyon, will remain in operation.

Running from Sault Ste. Marie 296 miles north to Hearst, the ex-Algoma Central route runs through the heart of the Algoma District, an 18,800 square mile recreational wilderness area.

Since 1914 local passenger trains have provided year round access to several small towns, numerous lakes and rivers, private camps, cottages, and wilderness lodges. In many cases the railroad was the only means of access to this remote region. Providing the service has long been a losing proposition, but because they are considered an essential service the trains remained in operation with subsidies provided by the government.

Wisconsin Central purchased Algoma Central in 1995, and when CN bought WC in 2001, it inherited the passenger trains. In 2004, winter local passenger service was reduced by one to three round trips per week, and in 2007, summer local passenger service was similarly reduced. In 2013, CN ended the winter Snow Train between Sault Ste. Marie and Agawa Canyon, because the seasonal excursion service was incurring rising operating losses as a result of stagnating passenger demand.

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