Race for Whistler rails on

Friday, November 28th, 2003

Ashley Ford

The Rocky Mountaineer will compete on its strong track record.

The highly successful Rocky Mountaineer rail service has formally thrown its hat in the ring to provide passenger rail service on B.C. Rail tracks between North Vancouver and Whistler and from Whistler to Prince George and Jasper.

The decision comes hard on the heels of the controversial decision by Victoria to sell B.C. Rail to CN Rail.

Scarcely 24 hours after the major deal was announced, B.C. Rail-CN issued a request for proposals to operate third-party tourist passenger trains on B.C. Rail and CN in B.C. A final decision is expected by February.

The Great Canadian Railtours Co. has long been interested in expanding its service offerings and had been negotiating with B.C. Rail for two years before the impending sale of the railway halted proceedings.

Peter Armstrong, GCRC president and CEO, feels the company’s success and the fact it already operates over CN and CP tracks gives it the inside track on the competition.

Whistler Rail Tours of Vancouver/Via Rail has also proposed a Vancouver Whistler service. Whistler Railtours would provide the railcars and Via would operate and maintain the service.

“Rocky Mountaineer Railtours has a strong track record in passenger rail and we have developed the business tenfold from when it was operated by Via Rail,” said Armstrong, adding that his company has developed a “business model that has surpassed the expectations of travellers in B.C.”

Armstrong said his company is the best suited to meet the challenge of establishing a service that can be sustained over the longer term on the routes.

“If there is potential economic impact to be gained by the communities along the route, we again are confident that our model and our experience will allow us to work with the communities to fully develop that potential,” Armstrong said.

Specifically, the company will operate the Whistler Mountaineer between North Vancouver and Whistler as an extension of the Rocky Mountaineer service to run between Whistler, Prince George and Jasper.

The company will also run excursions out of Prince Rupert to serve the cruise-ship business. It also plans to test the feasibility of a Kootenay service that would link up Golden, Cranbrook, Creston, Trail, Castlegar and Nelson.

Rocky Mountain is the largest privately-owned passenger trian service in North America.

© Copyright  2003 The Province

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