The Ford government continues to be all aboard with plans to relaunch passenger rail service in northern Ontario.
Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney announced on Tuesday the next step with the release of the Initial Business Case.
“We have listened to people, businesses and Indigenous communities across Northern Ontario who have long awaited the return of train service on the northeast corridor,” said Mulroney. “This important milestone in the planning process brings us another step closer to building a better transportation network in the North.”
Ontario Northland plans to reinstate the service and is working with the province and Metrolinx with further discussions for a 13-stop route that would provide service from Toronto to Timmins or Cochrane. The stops would include Washago, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge and Huntsville. An integrated bus service would connect with passenger rail to provide service to communities between rail stops.
The government committed $5 million to support this planning and design work in the 2021 Ontario budget.
Service would be offered based on seasonal travel demands and would range from four to seven days a week. The service would allow passengers coming from the North to travel overnight to maximize their day in the Toronto area and reduce the need for overnight accommodations in Toronto if preferred. The target completion date for the next stage of planning and design work is 2022 which could allow a potential in-service date in the mid-2020s.
“Improved passenger rail would provide people across Parry Sound-Muskoka with another way to travel both north and south to access services and it would give visitors to our local tourism operators a comfortable way to travel to the area,” said Norm Miller, MPP for Parry Sound–Muskoka. “I look forward to seeing this project progress and welcoming the many benefits improved rail service will bring to our region.”
The Liberal government under Premier Dalton McGuinty cancelled the Northlander train service in 2012 citing increased costs to the government and stagnant ridership. The service was replaced with an augmented bus service.
Ontario Northland currently operates four buses daily between Toronto and North Bay, and one or two buses daily from North Bay to Timmins or Cochrane.