Gatineau Ugh, from the Low Down to Hull and Back News, 15/04/15

 

 

Seven hours in a train car to Montebello – ridiculous. An ‘urban train’ ride through one of Canada’s ugliest cities – gross.

The fact that the Compagnie de chemin de fer de l’Outaouais (CCFO) is seriously considering these two options over Wakefield’s little country train is stupefying.

There’s no denying Montebello makes for a beautiful destination, but riders of the original Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield Steam Train routinely commented that its four-hour tour was too long. It’s a non-starter for seniors and families with kids, who made up a significant portion of train riders.

“Gross” is our description of an urban tour of Gatineau’s Maloney Boulevard. Le Droit columnist Denis Gratton’s word for a rolling vista of shopping malls, the WalMart. and row housing was “misère”.

And yet, rumour has it that the CCFO is favouring these two over Wakefield. No surprise – the decision process is already skewed to favour the two options that feature Gatineau as a launch point – but surely the thoughtful human beings who make up the organization that controls the the fate of one of the biggest tourist icons of the region have to acknowledge that Wakefield simply makes more business sense.

The Wakefield Steam Train Group (WSTG) has done its homework. It commissioned a thorough business plan that predicts the project is viable, showing a profit after year three. It has a letter of intent from an operator (neither Gatineau project has any interest to date) from well-known, successful, local ski resort operator Peter Sudermann. At $5.2 million the Wakefield project has the lowest price tag of all three. Perhaps most importantly, not only will the project have a local operator, it will have local management of the tracks. André Groulx, who ran the now defunct HCW Steam Train, once said that in the 18 years of running the popular tourist train through three municipalities, management of the tracks (read: CCFO) was his biggest hurdle. The proposed Wakefield country train runs on tracks in just one municipality, thereby eliminating the cumbersome CCFO and replacing it with a Wakefield / La Pêche group representing Wakefield / La Pêche interests.

Readers need to understand that this isn’t the old HCW Steam Train with a new coat of paint. It’s a completely new package: a short, sweet, riverside trip in a gorgeous historic steam train that doesn’t involve Chelsea, the CCFO, or landslides. It’s a well-researched, well-supported, all-local project that is not only do-able, it has the makings of a real success – both for the train itself and for the area. If chosen, it will come with infrastructure funding that will directly benefit Wakefield, and it will bring back a hugely important tourist draw that, as a regional icon, comes with decades of marketing momentum that benefits the whole area.

The Wakefield option is a no-brainer; make sure the CCFO knows. Support the WTSG: send the group an email (marc@laconfiserie.ca) or like it on Facebook. It would be heartbreaking if we lost the train to ridiculous Montebello or gross Gatineau.

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