SOOTODAY.com: ‘He understands how to run trains’

March 26, 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 by: Kenneth Armstrong

The president and CEO of the company that has signed an agreement to operate the Algoma Central Railway passenger service says it would be a shame if his plans for the service never see the light of day.

“Instead of the ACR train doing 6,000 people a year it could do 26,000 people a year,” said B. Allen Brown, president and CEO of Railmark Holdings, Inc. when reached by phone Tuesday.

That would be more passengers than the total ridership for the line for the four years between 2010 and 2013, according to a BDO study commissioned by Algoma Central Railway Passenger Service Working Group.

The federal government pulled its $2.2-million annual subsidy for the local passenger service last year and earlier this month CN and Railmark announced they had signed an agreement for third-party operation of the service.

Brown said there are only three choices to save the train: maintain the current $2.2-million subsidy, quadruple the numbers of residents who live along the line, or his plans which involve a $7-million subsidy over five years.

Brown’s ambitious plans for the ACR include building new stations in Sault Ste. Marie and Searchmont and purchasing additional baggage cars for the service to accommodate additional snowmobiles, a segment of the market he sees as a potential area for growth.

“You can’t grow the amount of snowmobiles with only two baggage cars,” he said.

He said he also plans on running special event trains, such as dinner trains and children’s trains, starting in August and plans for the Agawa Canyon Tour Train to begin its operating season in June.

Brown said he already has staff working on marketing the trains to American tourists, who he feels haven’t been targeted aggressively enough in the past.

“The American market is stronger today with the Canadian dollar and with more people looking for quality experiences. That is why us (Railmark) being American, being from Michigan and being aware of the train tour market, will be instrumental in helping us drive new traffic there,” he said.

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