Rail advocates calling for province to restore passenger train service in the northeast

Railway advocates in northeastern Ontario are hoping voters keep passenger trains top of mind when they go to the polls in June. The Northeastern Ontario Rail Network (NEORN) is calling on the next provincial government to restore passenger service in the region.

Northeastern Ontario Rail Network holding "Rally for Rail" town halls

The Northeastern Ontario Rail Network (NEORN) is holding a series of meetings across the region to discuss passenger rail. The group is calling on the next provincial government to restore the service in northeastern Ontario. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC)

Railway advocates in northeastern Ontario are hoping voters keep passenger trains top of mind when they go to the polls in June.

The Northeastern Ontario Rail Network (NEORN) is calling on the next provincial government to restore passenger service in the region.

The organization, which includes railways advocacy groups and stakeholders in the industry, is hosting a series of "Rally for Rail" town halls on the issue over the next two weeks.

NEORN spokesperson Lucille Frith said communities across the northeast have recognized a need for passenger rail and are now looking for ways to get the service back on track.

"Individuals need to select candidates that will probably check enough boxes on their wish list and elect them," she said. "And we then hope of course that a new government coming into power will in fact recognize the needs of northern Ontario."

A passenger train "loop?"

Northern railways have been a hot button issue on the provincial campaign trail. The NDP and Progressive Conservatives have both vowed to bring back the Northlander train, which was taken off the rails in 2012.

NEORN is proposing a passenger train "loop" that would use existing rail infrastructure to connect North Bay, Cochrane, Hearst, Wawa, Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.

Frith said the route would help to connect communities, and make transportation more affordable and accessible.

Three organizations advocating for passenger train service in northeastern Ontario are proposing a route that extends from Toronto to Moosonee, and loops around communities throughout the region. (Rally for Rail)

She added that railways have always played a key role in the development of the north.

"Trains opened up the communities and made them grow. Otherwise the communities in the north would not be there," Frith said.

"They brought goods and services to these communities, and as they grew each of the individual communities thrived because they were able to receive people and goods by rail."

The first Rally for Rail town hall is being held in Sudbury at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night, at the Quality Inn.

There will also be stops throughout the region in South River, Blind River, Englehart, Timmins, Wawa, Dubreuilville, Hearst, Cochrane and North Bay.