Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

VISITING CARCROSS – Engine #73 of the White Pass and Yukon Route is seen in Carcross in 2005. The railway’s new corporate owner, set to offi- cially take possession next month, says it plans to ‘maintain business as usual’ on the railway and at the port in Skagway.

Railway sets off on new ownership track

If a proposed deal goes through, the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway will be in the hands of Carnival Corp. & plc, the owners of the Holland America Princess Alaska Tours cruise ships.

By Stephanie Waddell on June 7, 2018

If a proposed deal goes through, the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway will be in the hands of Carnival Corp. & plc, the owners of the Holland America Princess Alaska Tours cruise ships.

Holland America cruise ships are a regular feature at the Skagway docks throughout the summer months.

The purchase, set to close July 31 subject to closing conditions, was announced Wednesday.

No selling price was disclosed.

Along with that deal, it was announced that Holland America has also signed off an a memorandum of understanding (also subject to review and approval) with Survey Point Holdings Inc. of Ketchikan, Alaska and its affiliated companies.

The MOU will create a joint venture that will make Survey Point the managing partner of the White Pass port, railway and retail operations that Carnival is purchasing from current White Pass owner TWC Enterprises.

“As part of the new MOU and joint venture, the partners plan to make investments in the business, which will enable continued economic development and job growth in Skagway and the surrounding region, making a positive impact on the local economy and further benefiting the Alaska tourism industry,” it was highlighted in the announcement.

“These investments will include support for expansion of docking facilities to accommodate the newest generation of cruise ships, a key to the port’s long-term success.”

The agreement will see Survey Point continue to manage White Pass’ day-to-day terminal operations and customer relations.

The 118-year-old railway runs summer excursions out of Skagway carrying scores of thousands of passengers per year.

Regular freight and passenger service to Whitehorse ended in the fall of 1982, after the simultaneous closures of several Yukon mines left the railway with no concentrates to haul from Whitehorse to Skagway.

There have been occasional forays as far as Carcross, including for the celebrations of the railway’s 100th birthday in the summer of 2000.

Survey Point has been part of the operations in Skagway for more than 40 years.

“As the gateway to the legendary Klondike Gold Rush region, Skagway is beloved by our guests and crew for its warm hospitality and distinctively Alaskan array of sightseeing and recreational activities,” said Stein Kruse, the group CEO of Carnival Corp. & plc’s Holland America Group and Carnival UK.

“We are delighted that the Skagway port will continue to be locally owned and independently operated by an Alaskan company.

“Along with Survey Point, we have a long and valued history in Alaska, and remain very committed to the continued development and success of the entire region as one our most popular destinations.”

The agreement states the Survey Point, and its affiliate P3 Group and Rail Management Services will have a majority stake in the joint venture, with Carnival retaining a minority position in the enterprise.

It was pointed out the Carnival cruise lines operate 103 ships that visit more than 700 ports around the world.

Another 18 new ships are expected to be added to the cruise line between 2018 and 2023.

Roger Frizzell, the chief communications officer for Carnival, noted in an email response to the Star today that “we will maintain business as usual at the Skagway port and railway operations.

“We look forward to working with the White Pass year-round and summer season employees, who have so warmly welcomed and supported our cruise guests year after year.

“We look forward to investing in the port with future enhancements, but at this point, it is a little too early to provide further details. We’ll be providing updates in the future.”

Frizzell went on to note that as part of the agreements, the company plans to “make investments in the business, which will enable continued economic development and job growth in Skagway and the surrounding region, making a positive impact on the local economy and further benefiting the Alaska tourism industry.

“These investments will include support for expansion of docking facilities to accommodate the newest generation of cruise ships, which will be a key to the port’s long-term success as interest in Alaska continues to grow and more of our guests want to experience this incredible destination.”

Highlighting the importance of Skagway as a port for the Alaska cruises and the long-standing history of having the ships visit the Klondike, the statement noted Carnival has a big interest in maintaining and enhancing the attractiveness of Skagway as a destination.

“Our Alaska cruises always generate high passenger satisfaction ratings, and we’re excited about being able to maintain and enhance the Skagway port to make sure our guests continue to fully enjoy their visits to Skagway and the region,” it was noted.

Comments (6)

Up 8 Down 1

Wilf Carter on Jun 12, 2018 at 2:40 pm

Hi Folks, read my letter on on bringing the train back to Whitehorse and how we might make this happen.

Up 9 Down 0

Dave on Jun 12, 2018 at 5:44 am

Sad day for the Yukon as another Cdn company sold to the Yanks for $US290 Million by its Ontario owner. No benefits for tourism in Yukon, jobs or expanding the railway. Funny the press release said “We are delighted that the Skagway port will continue to be locally owned and independently operated by an Alaskan company. This is incorrect it is Cdn owned until 31 July 18. Also will be interesting how they will run the railway north of the Can/US border as under Cdn law and Transport Canada only a Cdn company can operate a railway in Canada.
I do know that in 2001 Whitepass asked the Cdn Transportation Board permission to de activate the railnorth of the Alcan Hwy, this was granted and in town the land was sold. The train station was then leased back to Whitepass as it became a heritage building under YTG. The line between Carcross and the Hwy is worthless except for the scrap steel. As with anything that Carnival does is just make Skagway the fake Klondike and Disney of the North and there is no need to visit Dawson. Over the past few years they closed 2 Westmarks (Whitehorse Klondike and Beaver Ck) Watch how they will downsize the Yukon part of their programme over the next few years. Watch the railway turn from Historic to Theme park.

Up 5 Down 2

north_of_60 on Jun 11, 2018 at 6:42 pm

Geoff, As much as all of us would love to see the trains come to Whitehorse again --- it's not going to happen.

That section was only profitable because of the ore haul from Whitehorse to Skagway. When the road to Skagway opened that killed the railway to Whitehorse. Trucks can always do it cheaper because the taxpayers maintain the roads, whereas the railway has to cover all their maintenance and operations with revenue.

Carcross provides enough of an interesting tourist destination and the breathtaking scenery between there and Skagway makes that section profitable. Further north is not. However abandonment means a lot of clean-up and rehabilitation expense, plus they will lose ownership of the land, so that's not going to happen either. It's likely not costing them very much to keep it as-is.

People can play shoot-the-messenger all they want with 'thumbs-down', but it's not going to change economic reality.

Up 5 Down 8

north_of_60 on Jun 8, 2018 at 10:44 pm

William, if it was profitable to repair and upgrade the tracks on to Whitehorse they would have done it long ago. There's no money to be made between Carcross and Whitehorse with a railway.

Up 8 Down 0

Geoff on Jun 8, 2018 at 6:29 pm

I sure would like to know what Carnival has in mind for the "unmaintained" tracks north of Carcross. They might be planning to abandon them. What if someone actually wants to use the line for freight once again? - will Carnival make provision for it? Are they going to keep the people who know the rail tracks and the equipment and know how to maintain and rebuild a railway line?

Coming to Whitehorse would be nice. They would need to build some kind of terminal facility, and a turnaround so they could at least turn the engines around. In 1997, the train that came to Whitehorse had to go south at least as far as Carcross with the engine going backwards. At that time, the line ended at Rotary Park and the turnaround loop had some buildings in its place... like Tim Horton's, Pizza Hut, the Saan store, the liquor store...

Up 38 Down 1

William James on Jun 7, 2018 at 4:21 pm

While your at it, extend the railroad operation back to Whitehorse again.

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