Wakefield steam train may be back on track From Low Down to Hull and Back News, April 15-20, 2015

Turns out the Wakefield Steam Train Group (WSTG) has not lost the train project to Montebello. (If you were a train fan, this is where you would click your heels in glee).


But it’s not over yet.  Rather than make an official decision on who would be awarded the steam train project on April 1, as was originally planned, the Compagnie de chemin de fer de l’Outaouais (CCFO) chose to push the decision another two to three weeks.

“I’ve been saying the decision is imminent for a while,” said WSTG President Marc Fournier.  “It’s another three weeks of delays, we could be working to get the project back in 2016.”

Clearly frustrated, the folks behind the WSTG say the process to choose a proposal has so far been unclear and disorganized.  Rumours swirled last week that Montebello won the train, and while they were wrong, they were based in part on a tripartite committee process the CCFO set up.

Each team – Gatineau, Wakefield and Montebello –was asked to rate the projects first, second and third, with a number of points associated with each position.  And while the vote is not the final decision, it was meant to inform the CCFO.

Montebello won out, but WSTG member Jess Harris of the Alpengruss says the process was unfair from the start.

“Gatineau and Montebello are in the same camp because the Montebello project goes out of Gatineau.” Harris explained.  Rather than vote for the project that makes the most sense for the region, the WSTG believes the other two teams voted based on what was mutually beneficial.

“We really gave the whole process the benefit of the doubt,” said Harris. “We played really far, we followed all the rules, and we thought everyone else would, too.”

The reason Fournier and Harris have such confidence in the Wakefield project is because the country style train plan is much further along than the other two projects.

The Wakefield project has sole proprietorship of the tracks (something both of the other projects lack), an operator who’s local and has experience (again the only project to have someone signed on), municipal and regional support, and is the least expensive.

“It makes use of the $10 million already invested in [the train] and the $172 million invested in the highway just from Tulip Valley to Wakefield,” Harris added. “Taking [the project away from Wakefield, you’re not only taking it away from a community that needs a bit of stimulus, you’re also taking away that taxpayer investment.”

“While the process thus far has been a bit of a mess, it appears the CCFO is trying to tidy up its act, taking the next three weeks to consider all projects fairly.

Furthermore, on April 1, the WSTG formally presented its full business plan to the CCFO for the first time, and Fournier says it went well.

“We’ve had positive feedback,” he said. “We’re closer than ever to getting the train back to Wakefield.”

What the WSTG needs at this point is more community support.  Anyone keen to see the train back on the tracks can write a letter of support, volunteer, or pitch a business or project as part of one [of] the train’s travel packages, or hit the ‘like’ button  on the group’s Facebook page (Train à Vapeur Wakefield Steam Train).  For more information, email marc@laconfiserie.ca.

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