Local group working with northern partnership to return passenger trains to Muskoka and the north


Northern Ontario is pushing for the return of passenger trains and a local group is throwing their support behind those efforts in hope that it will benefit Muskoka as well.

“We started long before the Northlander was cancelled trying to get (Ontario Northland) to recognize they were missing a marketing opportunity in Muskoka,” said Lucille Frith from the Committee Promoting Muskoka Rail Travel (CPMRT). “Then we stayed active to deal with the fact that the Northlander wasn’t running any more.” The Ontario Northland from Toronto to Cochrane was cancelled in 2012.

CPMRT joined with other northern stakeholders in 2013 to form the Northern and Eastern Ontario Rail Network (NEORN), a ‘grass roots organization advocating for the retention of existing rail corridors and the reinstatement of passenger train and corresponding shuttle services throughout the Districts of Algoma, Cochrane, Greater Sudbury, Kenora, Manitoulin, Muskoka, Nipissing, Parry Sound, Rainy River, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Timiskaming.’

And support for the idea is gaining steam, said the group in a release.  “This is not surprising since increasing passenger train travel is one of the fastest ways to reduce carbon emissions and improve economic prospects in Northern Ontario.

“According to Transport Action Ontario (TAO), the Green House Gas (GHG) intensity of passenger rail is three to four times lower than the intensity from single-occupant personal vehicle use. Since transportation is one of the biggest sectors responsible for GHG, providing passenger trains to allow more people to get off roads and highways is imperative for Canada and Ontario to reach their environment targets. Road travel is the worst form of travel for the environment.”

NEORN why passenger trains

The group is encouraging all people in northern Ontario – and Frith counts anyone north of Washago in that category – to comment on the Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Study, which will “lay the groundwork for where they are going to put roads and rails for the next 25 years,” said Frith. “But the north already has rails. It’s a question of retaining them – we need a moratorium on rails being torn up. And we definitely need to relook at moving people off of highways and onto a more reliable, sustainable and environmentally effective rail system.”

NEORN investment comparisonThe next step, said Frith, is for NEORN to do an economic impact study from Muskoka right through to Moosonee. “We are just getting ideas of what the cost is and who is going to support it so that there is the ammunition necessary to take to the government levels and say here is the reality of what passenger rail could do for your area. It’s just a question of getting the product on the tracks and then we could look at the community economic development as well as the tourism opportunity. Could you imagine having a train like the Rocky Mountaineer going from Toronto to Moose Factory? That is a tourism opportunity that could be sold worldwide.”

Frith calls Muskoka a critical link for any northern rail system. “We are one of the most important because they all have to come through Muskoka. So it’s a question of what can we do to support the north in their endeavors to ensure that Muskoka is also serviced?”

Learn more about NEORN here.

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  1. Valerie McCormick on

    Thanks for the effort! Let’s go forward not backward! Our family miss the rail service and would welcome more opportunities to travel by rail. Not less?????

  2. Doug Austin on

    BRAVO !!
    We need OUR tax dollars to be invested where WE want them to be and not the lobbyists of the auto industry. Government needs to refocus on the electorate. Ever notice the quantity of car ads on television and direct mail? Who’s desperate to push their agenda with our money? I recently wrote Marc Garneau, Minister of Transportation, asking the similar government agenda questions … 2 plus months later I’m still waiting for an answer.

  3. Emmersun Austin on

    MONTREAL – “Canadian National Railway is calling on Ottawa to refrain from imposing or extending service regulations on the country’s railways that it fears will stifle innovation and discourage investment.” & “Chief executive Claude Mongeau says railway managers, not government agencies, are the best ones to decide on the trade-offs needed to ensure an efficient service.” April 26 (Toronto Star) Of course any passenger rail service will need the cooperation of CN & everyone knows how well practiced CN is at stifling & discouraging passenger rail service in #Canada. But, this can all change overnight.

  4. Glen Toogood on

    Why should Hogtown get a money losing shuttle to the airport and we can’t have one train a day? I used the Northlander frequently, especially in winter, as my family is in Toronto, and who wants to drive there in winter? I’ve been taking the bus when necessary, but the last trip was horrible. The new busses south from North Bay have restricted legroom, and they were crowded, full, even from about Bracebridge south. That’s another indication that more service is needed.

  5. Barb Goersch on

    I will definitely use the train from Union Station to get up to Swastika when it starts running again. The comfort and convenience along with the people are great. I don’t drive and have relatives in Kirkland Lake and the greater area.

  6. Jean Bagshaw on

    My family and I used to take the train to Toronto regularly and valued the availability of rail service. I would definitely take the train again if it was running. Promoting tourist travel and providing a positive transportation experience for all who ride the rails, would contribute to the economy, the environment and our quality of life.

  7. Kimberly Kidd on

    Good luck to this committee! I was saddened when the Northlander was cancelled. Travelling with young kids can be a challenge on the road. I would prefer to head south by train.

  8. Clement Carelse on

    All the comments above are valid, and good. Of course rail is important in the south, but more so in the north. The caveat is, of course, can we get folks to use it? I want to see the restoration of services too, but the powers that be need to encourage the use. It’s more than persuading northerners to take the train. It also needs an encouragement for southerners to explore the north. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that people need more pride in all of Ontario.

  9. Bonnie Moore on

    Excellent!!! Great to hear!!! Your endeavours are greatly appreciated. I still am able to drive and like to drive and when you are retired you can pick your days to travel for the most part. However, if one must get to a long-awaited appointment in Toronto or wherever, and it’s a stormy, winter day unfit for road travel, why would one want to take a bus?! Many others are not able to drive so need other options. From what I hear, bus travel is becoming more and more frustrating in the North. When the Northlander was taken out of service, it was done so without even trying other options such as decreased runs/week. I would like to challenge the decision makers in government to travel to Hearst and take the bus home to Toronto and experience first hand what we live with in the North! Cities could not exist without these outlying, rural area – it’s time they realized that!

  10. Joan Colquhoun on

    Maybe the Premiere of Ontario and Prime Minister of Canada should travel north to Kapuskasing and see how they enjoy the bus ride. It was totally wrong to remove rail from the North.

  11. Lorraine Lavoie on

    There is more to Ontario than Toronto. North Ontario does not end at Barrie or North Bay. No more trains, a terrible bus schedule, not at all user friendly, terrible hours.

  12. Gloria Cameron-Weir on

    I was against them removing the train service when they did, I can tell them I would be missing a son if not for the rail service from Northern Ontario to Toronto. My son had many medical issues and the train was the only way I had of getting him and myself to the hospitals in Toronto. I would love to see the Premier Of Ontario try to live the lives of many in the far North without a car or transportation to get to medical services that are needed. Of course that would never happen to her…

  13. Dawne Cunningham on

    Go to the NEORN website, sign the petition, read the stats and let your federal and provincial and municipal reps know you want passenger rail service throughout Ontario and the rest of Canada.

  14. I have sent my sentiments on rail traffic into Muskoka to nomts.ca. It makes total sense. Muskoka Airport is soliciting airtraffic from Toronto – like we want THEIR version of blue sky to come here. Traveling southbound from Muskoka, we see the smoggy horizon loom as we approach Barrie. the milky blanket is already evident north of Barrie on a normal day.
    Rail is the logical and far preferable alternative and it is a legitimate requirement of this government. jet fuel is used even for prop planes. Remember how clear the skies over the USA were after 9-11? People hadn’t seen such blue sky in their lifetimes in the denser populated cities until air traffic was abruptly curtailed. Blue sky country of Muskoka deserves a cleaner option. We’ll take rail please.

  15. Ambrose Raftis on

    The key to making train travel successful is to keep the price competitive to other means of transportation. To get to the point where the majority of people use rail, the strength of rail needs to take advantage of. Larger filled trains can be achieved by reducing cost and by scheduling. The train need not go every day it could travel every second day or 2-3-or 4 days a week This could cut operating and capital costs by having the same train and crew service a number of routes. People could schedule appointments around the schedule.
    Routes should cover the historical development routes Highways 10,17 and 11 as that is were population have developed.
    The operation should be run by experienced operators like GO Transit and prices should be in alignment with their existing pricing.
    Perhaps cost could be controlled by using lighter more energy efficient rolling stock that could more easily converted to battery electric when the technology is available.
    The economic impact wil come with the ease of Transportation. When people can move around easily the is more economical interface and better building of the economy.
    Efficient transportation is a long term investment and an initial investment will pay off over the long term.

  16. My family used the Northlander all our lives…the government can make cuts elsewhere , however, a stress-free train ride to northern Ontario should be available. It never should have been taken away in the first place. I would definitely use it as would all my family living in the city.

  17. Fred Werthman on

    Your initiative and actions are truly an inspiration. While I’ve no doubt your goals will be achieved, I am concerned that the old ‘use it or loose it’ sustainability issue may eventually threaten the result of your efforts.
    I learned of this just minutes ago while listening to CBC’s Ontario Morning. Perhaps your group should further connect with others who share your concerns to better promote rail travel as THE environmentally conscience alternative to other modes of travel. I live in a ‘tourist’ area (the Thousand Islands) and we have a (very tentative) existing VIA stop and a (once beautiful and active) station.

  18. Russell Nicholls on

    When the Northlander train was cancelled, I could certainly concur that it was a loosing proposition. Almost without exception, it would go through Huntsville dragging between ten and fifteen empty coaches. No wonder it lost money! I would suggest that a very profitable operation could be had, by the purchase of four Bud cars (Rail Diesel Cars, also known as RDC’s) . On weekdays or when heavy traffic is expected, add a coach or two as required. Scheduling is all important. One leaving North Bay (South) and Toronto (North) at a specific time each morning and reverse the run at a specific time each afternoon, Monday through Friday. The scheduling should not be connected in any way with the O.N.R. trains running north of North Bay. This would provide Northeastern Ontario tax payers with the rail travel option that we are all entitled to. The tracks are there, let’s use them!

  19. The meeting in Bracebridge was great… Thank you to the organizers and CPMRT, NEORN. Don’t forget to fill out the survey!!!!! Next year is a provincial election… Make this an election issue. The status quo of more and bigger roads need to defend their argument as that is partly responsible for our environmental situation. Lower carbon emissions drastically by implementing an efficient, on-time passenger rail service to ALL Ontario generating jobs and reducing GHG’s. Passenger rail services are an INVESTMENT in ours and our children’s future. LOOSE the subsidy word for passenger rail and apply it to the road system.

  20. Russell Nicholls on

    I have recently suggested a proposal concerning the acquisition of Rail Diesel Budd cars (RDCs) with which to provide the service to Northeastern Ontario. This is a serious situation that needs to be addressed by both Provincial and Federal governments! We, the taxpayers of Northeastern Ontario have been ignored long enough!

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