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Sale of White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad finalized

By: Abbey Collins


Skagway’s White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad has new owners and a new president. The sale of the company was finalized on July 31.


TWC Enterprises sold the rail and port operations to a joint venture. It includes Ketchikan-based Survey Point Holdings, its affiliates Rail Management Services, shareholders of the transportation company Carrix and the cruise company Carnival Corporation.


The railroad, constructed during the Gold Rush in the late 1800s, sold for $290 million. Each day, the train takes thousands of tourists from Skagway, through the White Pass, and into the Yukon.


A few days after the sale was finalized, the railroad’s new president Bob Berto spoke at a Skagway Assembly meeting.


“Working together is going to help us find the path to where we need to be. We may not agree on everything but I have a pretty good feeling that we all pretty well share the same concerns,” said Berto.


Berto, from Survey Point Holdings, sent a six-page letter to the Municipality of Skagway, outlining who the new leadership is, and plans for the near future.


“There’s lots of things to get over and to get on the table and we’re ready to — however you want to proceed as a council, we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” said Berto.


Berto notes Survey Point’s history in Skagway, running the port operation for White Pass.


His letter says Carnival has a minority stake in the business, while Survey Point owns the majority, and will manage the railroad.


During the assembly’s public comment period, Skagway’s Tim Bourcy called the sale finalization a ‘special day’ for the town.


“It’s a new day,” said Bourcy. “It’s an opportunity for us to set aside everything that has happened over the last 100 years and map a new future. We have a lot to do.”


Bourcy asked the assembly to look at the relationship with the railroad with fresh eyes.


“I encourage you guys to set aside whatever preconceived notions you might have about eminent domain, or any of the other silly discussions that are going on, and allow the new ownership group to help us map a new future,” said Bourcy.


In his letter to the assembly, Berto notes plans to improve safety and upgrade infrastructure. He said work is already underway to better understand, monitor and mitigate rockslides above the railroad dock. In the last year, the hillside has slid multiple times.


Berto also said the company plans to continue working with the municipality to make port improvements needed to accommodate larger cruise ships in coming years.


The municipality and White Pass spent much of the last year in negotiations, to try to find a way forward on those improvements.


Improvements to railroad tracks and cars are also on the way, said Berto.


He also said environmental remediation at the ore dock will be addressed.


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