The Ontario Government has published the Initial Business Case to develop the Northeastern rail passenger service, the Minister of Transport, Caroline Mulroney, announced.
The province, Ontario Northland and Metrolinx are moving forward with further planning for a 13–stop route that would provide service from Toronto to Timmins or Cochrane. As part of the 2021 Ontario Budget, the government committed AUD 5 million (USD 3.8 million) to support the planning and design work. The target completion date for the next stage of planning and design work is 2022. After the updated business case is developed, the project could move into procurement and construction.
“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. This important milestone in the planning process brings us another step closer to building a better transport network in the North,” Mulroney said.
The route for further planning, the Option 6 in the Initial Business Case, has 13 stops including the Union Station in Toronto. A seamlessly integrated bus service will connect with passenger rail to provide service to communities between rail stops.
“We reached a very important milestone in our plan to reinstate passenger rail. An enhanced transport network that integrates rail and bus services provides an exciting opportunity for the region to grow and improve. We are proud to be moving this plan forward,” Corina Moore, the CEO of Ontario Northland said.
Service would be offered based on seasonal travel demands and would range from 4 to 7 days a week. The service would allow passengers coming from the North to travel overnight to maximise their day in the Toronto area and reduce the need for overnight accommodations in Toronto, if preferred.
The business case analyses on the Northeastern rail passenger service are required by the government for all projects that exceed CAD 50 million (USD 41.38 million) in capital costs.
Five options were considered providing service between Toronto and North Bay as an interim phase. Based on past service times, it is estimated that the service will have a journey time of 5 hours and 35 minutes and serves seven stops in population centres between Toronto and North Bay.
Ontario Northland’s Northlander Passenger Train stopped service in 2012 but the communities served by the Northlander had access to bus service as well. Ontario Northland currently operates 4 daily buses between Toronto and North Bay, and one or two buses daily from North Bay to Timmins and Cochrane.