Passenger rail service will be restored to the northeast corner of the province by the mid-2020s, providing a direct link from Timmins to Union Station, Premier Doug Ford says.
“We’re getting it done and bringing passenger rail back to northeastern Ontario,” Ford said on Sunday at a press conference in Timmins.
Flanked by Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, Ford pledged $75-million over the next three years to get passenger service rolling between Union Station and the northern reaches of the province.
He took election-style swipes at non-Conservative governments of the past as he announced the new plan, noting that there had been northern passenger rail service, until it was cut a decade ago.
“Northern Ontario felt abandoned and ignored and they were right to feel that way,” Ford said.
“The previous government chose to cancel this rail service, cutting people and economies in Northeastern Ontario off from the rest of the province,” Ford said.
“At a time when our government is building up homegrown supply chains that connect resources, industries and workers in the north with the future of clean steel, electric vehicles and batteries, we’re restoring this vital transportation link,” Ford said.
Northern rail restoration will unlock the full economic potential of northern industries and also allow residents to access health care and enjoy recreational activities like Blue Jays’ baseball games in Toronto, he said.
The route should be in service by the mid-2020s, under the plan unveiled on Sunday. Passenger rail service will depend on seasonal travel demands and will range from four to seven days a week.
That includes overnight travel options between Northern Ontario and Toronto.
The new service will include a direct link from Cochrane to Timmins as well as the Timmins to Toronto rail connection.
It will use current rail infrastructure that’s already in place.
Timmins Mayor George Pirie was beaming when he stepped up to the microphone.
“As a regional hub and with Porcupine as the future terminus location, we will most certainly see positive impact on our tourism and industry sectors,” Pirie said. “This investment solidifies the government’s belief in our city. Residents will have another viable travel option to Toronto and points south. This is imperative for access to medical appointments and travel.”
The Ontario Northland Transportation Commission currently operates four buses daily between Toronto and North Bay.
The preferred enhanced route that’s under consideration contemplates 16 stops including Toronto (Union Station), Langstaff, Gormley, Washago, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Huntsville, South River, North Bay, Temagami, Temiskaming Shores, Englehart, Kirkland Lake (Swastika), Matheson, Timmins and Cochrane.
Also attending the press conference was Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, and the MPP for Nipissing.
“Passenger rail supports families, tourism, manufacturing jobs, innovation, and economic growth, and keeps the people of Ontario connected,” said Fideli, adding he was “thrilled” by the announcement.
“As the long-time voice for this vital service, it’s an absolute pleasure to be part of a government that is bringing passenger rail back to Northern Ontario, once and for all,” Fideli said.
Corina Moore, President and CEO of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, called the announcement life-changing.
“This service will fundamentally shift how people move between Northern Ontario and Toronto,” Moore said.