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A northern and eastern Metrolinx?
Group proposes rail links to GTA and elsewhere

NEORN.jpgThe Northern and Eastern Ontario Rail Network (NEORN), a part of Transport Action Ontario, is introducing itself to media this Monday, August 19, near the Discovery Museum, the former Canadian Pacific Railway Station, at 100 Ferguson Street, North Bay.

The media launch takes place in North Bay, NEORN says, due to the urgent need to stop the Government of Ontario from disposing of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) and to encourage the government to restore the Northlander train.

Since trains do not operate to North Bay anymore, NEORN members will drive there from Sault Sainte Marie, Cochrane, Muskoka, Pembroke, Toronto and elsewhere.

NEORN wants to improve and restore passenger rail service in Northern and Eastern Ontario. It says that all of the G8 countries, except for Canada, have recognized that rail service contributes to their economies and are increasing investments in railway infrastructure. It says that by neglecting rail in Ontario, governments are erecting barriers to social and economic opportunity and development, while substantially over-investing taxes into repairing and expanding roads.

NEORN is a network of rail advocacy groups and stakeholders from across Northern and Eastern Ontario, promoting passenger and freight rail service throughout the region, that, it says, are consistent with the Government of Ontario’s Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.

Following the launch, the group plans to meet with policy-makers in First Nations, municipalities and the Ontario and federal governments to promote its vision.

NEORN describes itself as “a unique partnership of stakeholders and potential supporters including First Nations, municipalities, chambers of commerce, boards of trade, local railways, businesses, industries, industry associations, unions, local coalitions or action groups, environmental groups and student groups.”

Members of NEORN advocate for revitalizing Northern and Eastern Ontario’s rail infrastructure and services to efficiently connect with the Greater Toronto Area and other parts of the province. This will “support an accessible, efficient, affordable passenger services and an effective, sustainable rail freight industry.”

What does NEORN want to do?

  • promote passenger rail services connecting us on all current rail beds and rights of way;
  • advocate for Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) to continue its role as transportation and communication provider for Northeastern Ontario in a properly governed and supported public agency under the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, similar to Metrolinx;
  • advocate for, and monitor, ONTC as a Northern and Eastern Ontario transportation planning authority (following the Metrolinx model) to co-ordinate and support interurban rail and bus passenger travel in the region;
  • advocate for the the Government of Ontario to immediately restore of the ONTC’s Northlander passenger train and consider bus service that feeds and supports passenger rail, instead of competing with these services;
  • advocate for Metrolinx to be aware of the vital need to efficiently connect the north to the GTHA;
  • participate in Ontario’s “Northern Ontario Multi-Modal Transportation Strategy” for passenger and goods movement;
  • advocate for preventing railway operators to abandon short lines in the region;
  • advocate for new dedicated provincial transportation revenue tools such as a sales tax or a fuel tax, if the government directs these funds to transportation projects in the region;
  • encourage local communities to fund, expand and operate local railway stations

NEORN’s list of rail lines that it urges railways or governments to restore or enhance for passenger and freight services:

Ontario Northland:

  • Hearst to Cochrane;
  • Cochrane to Moosonee;
  • Cochrane to North Bay; and
  • North Bay to Toronto.

Canadian Pacific Railway:

  • Huron Central Line from Sault Sainte Marie to Sudbury
  • Sudbury to North Bay to Mattawa;
  • Mattawa to Ottawa; and
  • Kenora to Thunder Bay to White River, connecting to the rest of Ontario’s CN rail lines.

Canadian National Railway:

  • Algoma Central Railway, Sault Sainte Marie to Hearst;
  • North Bay to Ottawa.

Transport Action Ontario advocates for environmentally, socially and economically sustainable public transportation and freight movement.