Sudbury·Audio

Excitement, surprise as Ontario Northland runs test train between North Bay and Cochrane

Northeastern Ontario may be one step closer to having passenger rail service reinstated. 

Cochrane-Toronto passenger rail route has been dormant since 2012

A Northlander test train ran between Cochrane and North Bay last week. (Submitted by Ontario Northland)

Northeastern Ontario may be one step closer to having passenger rail service reinstated. 

Over the last week, Ontario Northland was running a test train between North Bay and Cochrane — an initial track audit — to see what safety and infrastructure improvements are needed. 

Renee Baker, a spokesperson with Ontario Northland, said the test run is already generating some buzz. 

"There was quite a little bit of excitement on Facebook and from some of our rail fans," Baker said. "They were pretty excited and obviously surprised to see some passenger train equipment on that section of our network."

The Northlander, which in its heyday ran six times a week from Toronto to Cochrane, was discontinued in 2012 under the Ontario Liberal government.

Baker said Ontario Northland and MetroLinx have submitted an initial business case to the ministry of transportation to reintroduce passenger service, but doesn't have a timeline for when that might happen. 

In a statement to CBC, Mike Fenn, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation, said the government is working with Metrolinx and ONTC to finalize its business case.

"The province is accelerating work on a track audit by working with ONTC to begin an initial audit of tracks on a section of the North Bay corridor," Fenn said.

"The track audit is an essential step to identify needs for safety and infrastructure improvements to support a potential passenger rail service expansion in the future."

The ministry is continuing its review to meet transportation needs in northern Ontario, including optimizing bus services and options for passenger rail service, Fenn said. 

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