Train service to return to Northeastern Ontario

Ontario Northland Train Photo by Shutterstock/Mary Anne Love

It’s been nearly a decade since train service stopped in Northeastern Ontario, but the provincial government has announced plans for a new 13-stop passenger rail to run between Timmins or Cochrane and Toronto.

Ontario’s Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney made the announcement on Tuesday, publicly releasing the project’s initial business case—an overview of the project and why it’s needed.

“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,” Mulroney said in a statement. “This important milestone in the planning process brings us another step closer to building a better transportation network in the North.”

The province, which has partnered with Ontario Northland and Metrolinx on the project, has committed $5 million of its 2021 budget to the planning and design of the new rail service.

As of the current planning stage, the route will include stops in Toronto’s Union Station, Langstaff, Gormley, Washago, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Huntsville, North Bay, Temagami, Timiskaming Shores, Englehart, Matheson, and Timmins (South Porcupine), or Cochrane.

Ontario Northland Service Route
Photo Courtesy of the Ontario Government

The train schedule will be based off of seasonal travel demands, ranging from four to seven days a week. There will also be an option for passengers coming from the north to travel overnight to Toronto, reducing their need for accommodation.

The province says that the next stage of planning and design should be completed by 2022, allowing rail service to start in the mid-2020s.

According to the provincial government, one of the rail service’s main benefits will be providing a reliable and convenient travel option for people who need access to healthcare, education, and other important 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, in a statement.

Ontario Northland used to provide rail service between Toronto and Cochrane, and Cochrane and Moosonee. But the service was cancelled in 2012 by Dalton McGuinty, the Ontario premier at the time, who claimed it was financially unprofitable.

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.

Current Ontario Premier Doug Ford revisited the issue of northeastern rail service in his 2018 campaign, promising that his government would bring it back.

“We made a commitment to return passenger rail to the North and we are one step closer to fulfilling that commitment,” said Vic Fedeli, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, in a statement.

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