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Calls out to provide passenger rail service to Whistler



Two companies bidding on the line to date

At least two companies will be vying for the chance to bring a passenger rail train from Vancouver to Whistler and beyond.

Whistler Railtours and the Great Canadian Railtour Company were very excited with Tuesday’s announcement that there will be a request for proposals (RFP) from BC Rail and CN to develop new passenger train services in B.C.

But the companies aren’t the only ones excited about the chance to revive passenger rail service in the corridor.

"It’s been one of the goals on council for many, many years," said Mayor Hugh O’Reilly.

"Reliable consistent service that gives an alternative to cars is just supportive of our overall strategy within the corridor."

The passenger RFP was part of the $1 billion package deal to lease the BC Rail lines to the freight rail company CN. The deal was announced this week by Premier Gordon Campbell.

Prior to the announcement of the deal with CN there was a worry that the passenger rail component would be pushed out of the mix.

"We had a fear that freight companies such as CN had no interest in providing track access to passenger companies because they don’t mix that well," said John Haibeck, chief executive officer with Whistler Railtours, who was excited about the proposal call for passenger rail.

"Freight companies would like to have just freight trains on there so I kept saying to the government ‘look do you honestly think that one of these freight companies is going to give us the time of day.’...They just want unfettered access to those tracks.

"We’re saying ‘just a second, there’s other people besides box cars that need to be on those tracks.’"

He said Whistler Railtours commissioned a KPMG study, which showed the viability of passenger rail service.

Based on the their business plan, Whistler Railtours identifies 1,285 new jobs and tourism spending of $70 million that would be generated by the introduction of a year-round passenger and tourist rail service in the first year alone.

Haibeck has been talking about passenger train service to Whistler for about two years now. His proposal goes hand in hand with the Nita Lake Lodge development recently approved by Whistler council, which will see a boutique lodge and a multi-million dollar train station built in Creekside.

But Haibeck isn’t the only one interested in bidding on the rights for passenger rail travel in the Sea to Sky corridor.

The Great Canadian Railtour Company, which operates the Rocky Mountaineer, is also proposing a passenger train to operate on the BC Rail lines.

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