Ontario Northland axedFriday, March 23, 2012 by: SooToday.com Staff
Ontario Northland Transportation Commission
Ontario has chosen to take a new approach to regional transportation in northeastern Ontario by winding down the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC).
This decision will allow the government to protect investments in northerners' health and education systems while balancing the budget by 2017-18.
Since 2003, the government has worked hard to make the ONTC viable by increasing funding by 274 percent.
However, demand for its services has stagnated.
Also, the current subsidy on the Northlander train is $400 per passenger, and no longer affordable.
- Government funding has increased from $28 million annually in 2003-04 to $103 million this year.
- Ridership has remained stagnant at about 320,000 rides a year.
- Sales revenues have declined from $140 million in 2005 to just over $100 million this year.
- Private buses serve most of the same communities.
A transition board has been appointed to work with current Chairman Ted Hargreaves to begin the divestment of the commission.
The board has been given a mandate to:
- Ensure the ongoing operation of the Polar Bear Express service
- Divest commercially valuable assets such as rail freight, rail refurbishment and Ontera telecommunications
- Begin the process of cancelling the Northlander train service that runs between Toronto and Cochrane - to be replaced with enhanced bus service
- Tender bus services for other operators to service existing bus routes
- Consolidate the ferry service between Moosonee and Moose Factory with other provincial ferry services.
There will be no immediate changes for ONTC services or employees.
"No government in recent memory has worked harder than ours to make the ONTC viable. We've made significant investments in the ONTC since 2003, but the organization is not on a sustainable financial path. We have a responsibility to find a new solution that both protects essential passenger services and ensures that northerners are getting full value for taxpayer money. Our priority is to invest in areas that matter most to northerners, such as health care, education, northern highways and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund." - Rick Bartolucci, minister of northern development and mines
"Today we are provided with an opportunity to build a new transportation system for a new era. I am pleased to participate in a process that will result in a sustainable solution that has such great potential for new opportunities for northeastern Ontario." - Ted Hargreaves, chairman of the board for ONTC
- Government funding to the ONTC has increased by 274 percent over the last nine years from $28 million annually to $103 million this year.
- Since 2003-04, the government has invested $439 million in the ONTC to help it become viable and self sustaining.
- The government remains committed to ensuring that northern communities and industries benefit from a viable, efficient and sustainable transportation system. The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario features a "Multi-Modal Transportation Strategy," which includes the development of an integrated air, rail, marine and road strategy.
About the direction for an integrated transportation strategy in the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.
The Ontario Northland Transportation Commission - Backgrounder