NORTH BAY, ON, November 23, 2021 – Today, the province’s plan for a better transportation network for Northern Ontario, just took a great big stride closer to coming to fruition. The Ontario Northland test train officially departed from North Bay and arrived safely at Union Station in Toronto for the first time in ten years.
Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, announced in May that the Ontario government is improving transportation in the North by taking the next step towards bringing passenger rail service to people in the northeast with the release of the Initial Business Case.
The province has a target completion date of 2022 for the next stage of planning and design work and says they are targeting a potential in-service date in the mid 2020s.
The plan for the route (pictured below) is to have 13-14 stops, from Toronto to Timmins or Cochrane including: Toronto (Union Station), Langstaff, Gormley, Washago, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Huntsville, North Bay, Temagami, Temiskaming Shores, Englehart, Matheson and Timmins or Cochrane. From Cochrane of course the Ontario Northland Polar Bear Express takes over and goes all the way to Moosonee.
“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 Minister Mulroney in May. “This important milestone in the planning process brings us another step closer to building a better transportation network in the North.”
This was the first Ontario Northland train journey in ten years from North Bay to Toronto. Prior to that buses were the only mode of public transport.
“Ding ding ding…the @OntNorthland test train pulling into #Bracebridge on its way to Toronto from North Bay. Thx @C_Mulroney@VictorFedeli and @normmillerpc for supporting the return of this important passenger rail service to Northern Ontario, said Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith.
The province, Ontario Northland and Metrolinx are moving forward with further planning for route as part of the 2021 Ontario Budget, the government committed $5 million to support this planning and design work.
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.
Target completion date
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.
“We made a commitment to return passenger rail to the North and we are one step closer to fulfilling that commitment,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade and MPP for Nipissing. “The planning we’re doing today will help to determine the details, and we are confident that the proposed service route would provide the best value and options to support economic opportunities, the tourism industry and access to healthcare, education and other critical services.”
“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 Norman 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 Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities welcomes the additional funding in the 2021 provincial budget directed toward passenger rail for Northern Ontario,” said Danny Whalen, Councillor for the City of Temiskaming Shores and President of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities in May. “The Board also supports the cautious approach being used by Minister Mulroney. Let’s all follow the minister’s lead and ensure that we do this properly with a safe rail system and schedules that meet the needs of the public.”
- Ontario Northland’s Northlander Passenger Train stopped service in 2012 (communities served by the Northlander had access to bus service as well). Ontario Northland currently operates four buses daily between Toronto and North Bay, and one or two buses daily from North Bay to Timmins and Cochrane.
- The route for further planning (Option 6 in the Initial Business Case) has 13 stops including Toronto (Union Station), Langstaff, Gormley, Washago, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Huntsville, North Bay, Temagami, Temiskaming Shores, Englehart, Matheson and Timmins or Cochrane. A seamlessly integrated bus service will connect with passenger rail to provide service to communities between rail stops.
- From October 23 to November 20, 2020, more than 7,200 people, including 8.3% of respondents that self-identified as Indigenous, shared their feedback about transportation opportunities along the rail corridor between Toronto, North Bay, Timmins or Cochrane.