‘Twas the week before Christmas and Stan Cho, Associate Minister of Transportation was at the North Bay train station to announce the purchase of three train sets for our Northlander route. No longer a promise but a $139,500,000 purchase order for three Siemens trainsets to be delivered by 2026.
It has taken almost 10 years, 2 elections, 72+ municipalities on the Northlander rail line signing council resolutions to return the passenger train, millions of $$ in studies and business plans, hundreds of people putting in hundreds of hours attending meetings, town halls, interviews, writing media pieces and basically connecting with anyone who could help make the government understand the need for a passenger train from Toronto to Cochrane.
And here we are, the purchase order has been issued to Siemens for three Venture trainsets (which VIA ordered as well): each trainset with a diesel locomotive that meets the latest EPA Tier 4 emission standards, making them one of the most environmentally friendly engines on the market, along with a fully accessible fleet of 2 economy rail cars and 1 business class rail car, each includes built-in wheelchair lifts, mobility aid storage spaces, galley style food services, and fully accessible washrooms. The trainset interiors will also feature spacious seating and modern amenities, including Wi-Fi connectivity and passenger information systems with audio and visual announcements. The train will travel on the Richmond Hill line like before, with sixteen stops between Toronto’s Union Station and Timmins, with a rail connection to Cochrane and the Polar Bear Express to Moosonee.
So, the purchase is made. . . what else needs to be done?? Ontario Northland can now move forward with the details in the business case, knowing the train model has been selected. Details include hiring staff dedicated to passenger rail service, operation, and maintenance; completing the interior design of the cars to meet the unique needs of northerners with regards to seating configuration and amenities; developing connectivity plans with bus services; details of corridor, station and shelter infrastructure along with community outreach, marketing and partnerships. Most important is securing track access and right of way for the service where track ownership is Metrolinx or CN and not Ontario Northland.
So, what do advocates do . . . while waiting three years for delivery?? We will continue to work closely with Ontario Northland and our elected representatives, along with the northeast municipalities, Chambers of Commerce, First Nations, Post Secondary schools, and tourism offices from Washago to Moose Factory! We need to not only ensure the passenger rail service is delivered on time but also that it meets the needs of the many residents, visitors, and businesses that will utilize the service. Through our communications with the public, we know the amenities they suggested are in their new train and they have promised to ride it. So that is our job for the next three years . . .to ensure the interest in ridership (i.e., bums in seats) grows and grows.
THANKS TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HELPED MAKE THIS HAPPEN – OUR ADVOCACY IS WORKING! SUCH GREAT NEWS. SEE YOU ON THE TRAIN IN 2026. NEORN CO-CHAIRS HOWIE WILCOX AND LUCILLE FRITH https://neorn.ca (2018 photo updated to 2022).
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