NORTHERN AND EASTERN ONTARIO RAIL NETWORK
The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) recently published a Multimodal Transportation Strategy (NOMTS) discussion paper with regard to the movement of people and goods in Northern Ontario for the next quarter century.
While the draft report elaborates on the merits of highway, air, marine and freight rail transportation, the provincial government continues to ignore the role that passenger trains can provide to residents of this region.
The government does little more than to acknowledge that passenger rail services are limited in Northern Ontario. It indicates in Chapter 3 (Intercommunity Bus and Rail) that only one large urban community (above 10,000 residents) benefits from year round access to passenger rail services, Greater Sudbury.
Furthermore, the government fails to recognize in its section of Emerging Strategic Directions to Consider (Chapter 7) the value that passenger trains can provide for residents in the region.
In their 25-year Multimodal Transportation Strategy, the MTO and MNDM provide one ambiguous remark about protecting rail lines for the future use of passenger trains:
Rail Where Feasible
“Protect for future passenger rail where infrastructure exists, particularly where factors such as poor bus and/or road access exists, contributing to its potential need.”
Is this truly the absolute best the provincial government can do for Northerners?
Elected officials are not providing people and their families in Ontario’s North, especially seniors and students, with safe, comfortable, and reliable transportation options that they need to travel great distances.
People suffering from injuries or illness are obligated to catch a bus on the side of the road to access the medical attention they require in larger cities. As passenger rail infrastructure sits idle, residents with limited mobility are forced to make other arrangements to travel in comfort and dignity.
The Government of Ontario invests heavily in public transportation in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). GO Transit benefits annually from a $155.62 subsidy from every man, woman and child residing in Ontario.
Meanwhile, the province refuses, for a fourth consecutive year, to invest the 86 cents it provided for the operation of the former Northlander service (between Cochrane, North Bay and Toronto).
Residents and First Nations along the Algoma Central corridor (between Sault-Ste-Marie, Hawk Junction and Hearst) have been stranded for over a year because of the provincial and federal governments’ refusal to intervene and provide basic transportation services in this region (at an annual cost of 7 cents for every Canadian resident).
This is intolerable and unacceptable. Northerners deserve better.
Over the last few weeks, the province held a number of consultations in six communities in Northern Ontario, including Greater Sudbury, Kenora, North Bay, Sault-Ste-Marie, Thunder Bay and Timmins.
More than 70 participants in Sault-Ste-Marie provided input about the need for frequent, reliable and a ordable passenger train services in the region.
NEORN calls on residents and stakeholders to leave their remarks about the need for passenger rail service to be included in the Multimodal Transportation Strategy for Northern Ontario. Comments can be provided here before the deadline of Dec. 16, 2016:
Link to discussion paper online: https://nomts.ca/discussion-paper/ Email : firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone : 1-844-505-5006
Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Study
c/o Ministry of Northern Development and Mines Suite 200, 70 Foster Drive, Sault-Ste-Marie (ON), P6A 6V8