Bringing Passenger Rail Back to Northeastern Ontario
TIMMINS – The Ontario government is investing $75 million to bring passenger rail service back to Northeastern Ontario, restoring a key transportation option that was previously cancelled in 2012. Service will be reinstated between Timmins and Toronto, helping to connect Northern Ontario as the government invests in unlocking the full economic potential of northern industries, resources and minerals.
“The previous government chose to cancel this rail service, cutting people and economies in Northeastern Ontario off from the rest of the province,” said Premier Doug Ford. “At a time when our government is building up home-grown 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. We’re getting it done and bringing passenger rail back to Northeastern Ontario.”
The province released an updated initial business case that outlines options for passenger rail service from Toronto to Timmins. Future feasibility work on a preferred route will include a new rail connection to Cochrane, expanding the reach of this critical rail transit to 5,300 more people and providing a connection to Polar Bear Express service to Moosonee.
“Restoring Northeastern passenger rail service is critical to building the regional economy and making life easier for people living in the North,” said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation. “Our government is delivering for Northern Ontario through historic investments in rail service, roads, highways and bridges so that people living in these communities have a transportation network that works for them.”
“The return of passenger rail to Timmins is imperative to our region’s growth and prosperity. 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,” said George Pirie, Mayor of Timmins. “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. It will improve our quality of life and the well-being of the community by strengthening access to and from Timmins and the north.”
With a potential in-service date in the mid-2020s, passenger rail service will be offered based on seasonal travel demands and will range from four to seven days a week. The rail service will provide passengers with access to reliable overnight travel options while commuting between Northern Ontario and Toronto.
Ontario Northland Transportation Commission’s Northlander Passenger Train discontinued service in 2012. Ontario Northland currently operates four buses daily between Toronto and North Bay, and one to two buses daily from North Bay to Timmins and Cochrane.
The preferred route that will be explored as part of future feasibility work 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.
The addition of a potential passenger rail connection to Cochrane would enable higher ridership, provide a connection to Polar Bear Express service to Moosonee and provide access to an existing rail facility, resulting in lower costs.
By 2041, annual ridership is currently estimated to be between approximately 40,000 and 60,000 with a Timmins terminus station and a connection to Cochrane. The connection to Cochrane would also serve an additional 5,300 residents, allowing the rail service to reach a total of 176,000 residents.
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, and Cochrane.
"We’re thrilled to be bringing passenger rail back to the North. Passenger rail supports families, tourism, manufacturing jobs, innovation, and economic growth, and keeps the people of Ontario connected. As the long-time voice for this vital service, it's an absolute pleasure be part of a government that is bringing passenger rail back to Northern Ontario, once and for all"
- Vic Fedeli Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, and MPP for Nipissing
"Bringing passenger rail to communities in Parry Sound - Muskoka will improve the quality of life for our residents by making travel easier and safer and will provide a reliable mode of transport for tourists, which is vital for our hospitality industry. This investment and release of the Updated Initial Business Case is an important step forward in connecting Parry Sound - Muskoka to its surrounding communities and supporting economic growth in the Northeast."
- Norman Miller MPP for Parry Sound – Muskoka
"Our government made a promise to connect communities across the North and that is exactly what we are doing. The previous Liberal government gave up on Northern Ontario, but our government is bringing back convenient transportation options for Northerners to improve health and economic outcomes."
- Greg Rickford Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, and MPP for Kenora – Rainy River
"I want to thank Premier Ford and Minister Mulroney on taking this next important step to build a business case for the successful return of passenger rail to Northern Ontario. Passenger rail will benefit the residents of the north, enhance other modes of transportation and open tourism and business opportunities for our northern economy. Now we as municipal leaders must step up and support and encourage ridership for this valuable service."
- Danny Whalen Councillor for the City of Temiskaming Shores and President of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities
"With the release of the UIBC, we have reached a very important milestone in our plan to reinstate passenger rail to Northeastern Ontario. An integrated transportation network that connects rail and bus services provides an exciting opportunity for the region to grow and improve. This service will fundamentally shift how people move between Northern Ontario and Toronto."
- Corina Moore President and CEO of Ontario Northland Transportation Commission
Northern Rail Updated Initial Business Case
More about passenger rail in the North