When CN acquired the former Algoma Central, the Sault Ste. Marie-Hearst passenger train continued to run thanks to a subsidy from the federal government. Late last week, the government announced that it is stopping the subsidy, meaning that the train will no longer run after March 31, 2014. There has been very little press coverage so far, but the decision has already been made.
It has been a very bad few years for passenger rail in northern Ontario. The big blow has of course been the loss of the Northlander in 2012, but VIA Rail's Canadian has also been cut back during the winter months. The CN/ACR line has recently lost the Snow Train too. From April, the only two passenger trains in the north (apart for the Canadian) will be the Cochrane-Moosonee Polar Bear Express and the Agawa Canyon Tour. Any hopes for an integrated network of passenger rail across the north have been dealt a major blow.
As I near the end of the research for my book about the proposed divestment of Ontario Northland, I can fully appreciate how vital passenger rail is in the north and how this latest cancellation is just rubbing salt in the wound.
The Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains has already started a letter writing campaign to voice their concern at the announcement. They are best-suited to lead a public campaign against the closure and I hope you will support them in their fight to restore passenger rail to the north. You can join their campaign here.