Sudbury

Don't want to miss the next train: northern Ontario towns lobby province to shape passenger rail plans

Now that hopes for passenger rail in northern Ontario have moved down the line a little, there are attempts to shape the province's plan, especially from northern towns and cities that want the train to stop there.

$5M planning study expected to be complete next year, first train to run in 2025

Ontario Northland is planning to bring back passenger rail service between Toronto and the north in this decade, but where the train will stop is still up for debate. (Ontario Northland )

Now that the province has inched forward on northern Ontario passenger rail, cities and towns are hoping to shape what that plan looks like.

The preliminary design for the new passenger train includes 13 stops across Ontario.

Kirkland Lake is not one of them.

The old Northlander train, which this new service is meant to replace, stopped for decades in Swastika just outside of Kirkland. 

But after the service was scrapped in 2012, the railway station was torn down.

Kirkland Lake town council is lobbying Ontario Northland to make sure they don't miss this next train. 

"We can't drop the ball here guys," town councillor Lad Shaba said at a council meeting last week. 

"This is the planning time stage. This is the time to exert maximum pressure to make sure that we're in. We're in the plan."

The Northlander train readies for its final run out of Cochrane, Ontario in 2012. (Megan Thomas CBC)

One of the next steps in that plan is to decide whether the northern terminus of the new service will go back to Cochrane where the Northlander turned around or be moved to the much larger city of Timmins, which would also need to build a new station. 

"I think the biggest thing to be looking at with this study is to ensure it gets done correctly," said Timmins Mayor George Pirie.

"Obviously if passenger rail is going to work in the north, it has to be fast and efficient," he said. 

The planning study will cost $5 million, while actually offering passenger rail service could cost up to $20 million taxdollars per year. 

Pirie wonders how much of a priority it might be for the cash-strapped provincial government in the post-COVID world, but certainly isn't going to turn it down.

"Oh boy, I'll take every dollar the province will give us to spend in the north," he said. 

The more detailed plan is expected to be complete next year and if everything's on track, the first train tickets sold in 2025. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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