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Jun 15

Online meeting with special guest Corina Moore, CEO of Ontario Northland

By Transport Action Ontario | Events , Northern Ontario

The Northeastern Ontario Rail Network and Transport Action Ontario welcome publication of the long-awaited Initial Business Case for restoring Northeastern Passenger Rail Service by MTO and Ontario Northland on May 25th, and we are encouraged that the Government of Ontario plans to move forward with the restoration of passenger rail service based on the clear social equity need for this service and whole-economy spin-off benefits for the north.
To explain what this announcement means for the region, and what the next steps will be, Corina Moore, CEO of Ontario Northland, will be joining us for a live webinar on June 23rd, 2021.

Ontario Northland:
Passenger Rail Vision

Wednesday June 23rd, 11am

Corina Moore, CEO of Ontario Northland, will discuss Ontario Northland’s services, impact and vision, and the recently published initial business case for restoring Northern Ontario Passenger Rail.


If you don’t have broadband Internet or can’t access Zoom, you can also dial in by phone. Please register online to get the phone numbers and passcode.

Photograph: Polar Bear Express at Cochrane, Ontario Northland

May 27

Ontario Releases Initial Business Case for “Northeastern Passenger Rail” – Statement

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Northern Ontario

Transport Action welcomes the long-awaited Initial Business Case published by MTO and Ontario Northland. We are encouraged that the Government of Ontario plans to move forward with the restoration of passenger rail service between Toronto, the Muskoka region, and Northeastern Ontario based on the clear social equity need for this service and whole-economy spin-off benefits for the north.  However. we note that “a potential in-service date in the mid 2020s” is well behind the election promises made by the government. We urge the Province to move ahead promptly on the many key steps still needed for implementation. 

In order to move swiftly to implementation, MTO must robustly support the negotiation of a train service agreement with CN for operations between North Bay and Toronto. We had hoped to see such an agreement concluded by this stage, with known costs for necessary additional passing tracks or upgrades. As noted in the IBC, an agreement that protects on-time performance and ensures punctual train meets should reduce the need for costly additional infrastructure, as well as being vital to the passenger experience.

The proposed service integration with Ontario Northland’s bus network will ensure that the train improves the level of service for communities across the northeast and will serve as a best-practice example to other Canadian regions.

Tourism revenues that would be attracted by a high-quality service are not analysed in the report, but would represent millions of dollars in whole-economy benefits and a significant boon to northern Ontario businesses. Domestic tourism within Canada is likely to be strengthened in the next couple of years as families seek alternatives to long-haul travel, and once international travel resumes the global market slow-travel opportunities involving rail travel, cultural heritage, and outdoor pursuits is likely to rebound strongly, attracting a high-spending early-retired demographic.

The report does not address the selection of rolling stock in any detail, although it mentions the possibility of a cab car for bidirectional operation, which may have limited additional utility on a long-distance service of this nature, unless the train reverses at Timmins to continue to Cochrane.

Rolling stock procurement is a critical step in service delivery, and with order books full at most north American car builders, a more proactive approach by the government to securing new equipment would have paid significant dividends. It may be possible to accelerate the timeline for service restoration by leasing equipment in the interim until brand new cars can be ordered and delivered.

Selection of suitable new rolling stock will be critical to the long-term success of this service. In addition to providing affordable seats and accessible accommodation, the rolling stock should also offer a service level suited to the tourism market, which means good all-round visibility, sleeping accommodation and decent catering. The suggestion of a “no amenities” service level in the initial business case is concerning, morning coffee being the least Canadians are going to expect on an overnight train. After making the investment to get the train running, going cheap on amenities would seriously inhibit the success of the service.

The equipment must also ride well across the range of track conditions in northern Ontario. A common complaint about the rebuilt single-level commuter cars used prior to 2012 was that ride quality was highly variable, which caused mobility impaired passengers difficulties moving about the train for refreshments or to the washrooms.

With both Amtrak and VIA Rail in need of new long-distance equipment in the current decade, and Amtrak being likely to select single-level design due to accessibility requirements, there is an opportunity to develop a new generation of single-level overnight and long-distance equipment. Leadership on this file by the governments of Ontario and Canada would increase the chances of a share of that work being conducted in Thunder Bay.

Northeastern Passenger Rail Service Initial Business Case

May 05

Pressure Against Highway 413 Continues – Federal Impact Assessment to Occur

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Latest News

Pressure continues to mount in opposition to Highway 413. May of the municipalities on or near the route have resolved to oppose it. Transport Action Ontario (TAO) made a deputation to Markham Council on May 3 outlining the reasons to oppose this highway. It can be viewed below.

We are pleased to report that Federal Minister of the Environment Jonathan Wilkinson ruled favourably on a request by 8 non-government organizations, including TAO, to designate the Highway 413 project for a federal Impact Assessment (IA). Although the scope of the IA is not yet know, we expect that this will create a “sober second look” at all aspects of the project, including identification of superior alternatives like transit and truck toll subsidies.

GO Train at Bloor station. Photo by Sally Hewson.
May 03

Improving and Expanding Service on Kitchener GO Line

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Uncategorized

One of the prime transportation objectives of the Ontario government is to establish 2-way all-day GO service from Toronto to Kitchener along the so-called Innovation Corridor. The recent Provincial budget explicitly discussed progress on a second tunnel under Highways 401/409 and progress on procurement this year of additional tracks and new platforms.

The current operation provides limited service to Kitchener.  Metrolinx has now released the Preliminary Design Business Case (PDBC) defining the infrastructure requirements, costs and benefits of reaching the provincial objective.  For the inner portion of the line (Weston Sub), the approved GO Expansion project will provide adequate infrastructure.  However, on the Bramalea – Georgetown portion (Halton Sub), additional track and potentially a rail-rail grade separation will be needed to allow shared use with CN Rail. On the Georgetown – Kitchener portion (Guelph Sub), passing tracks will need to be added on this single track line.  Capital cost is estimated at $1.3B – 1.7B PV, roughly within the provincial funding envelope.  It is also encouraging to note the apparent cooperation between CN and Metrolinx on this project.

The PDBC also mentions other potential future enhancements, such as a direct connection to Pearson Airport, electrification beyond Bramalea and service extension to Southwestern Ontario. Transport Action will continue to monitor this strategic project closely.

The full report is available online: Kitchener GO Rail Service Expansion – Preliminary Design Business Case

Photo of GO Kitchener Line train at Bloor station by Sally Hewson.

May 01

Yonge North Subway Extension – TAO Suggests Alternate Route

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

Resident outrage over the recommended route for the Yonge North Subway Extension continues. See our post of April 27 for background. Transport Action Ontario has now suggested an alternate route, known as Option 2A. It has been submitted to Metrolinx, who have indicated they will comment back. Our submission is given below.

Hi Steve….thank you to you and the Metrolinx team for participating in the lengthy Markham Development Services Committee meeting on April 25.  It is clear there are many residents with big concerns about Option 3A.  As you recall, I offered to write up what I called “tweaked Option 2”, or Option 2A, involving a cut & cover route across Langstaff to reach an at-grade Bridge Station. You agreed to evaluate this option and report back.

This idea has been developed by Transport Action Ontario, a citizen-based NGO focusing on public transportation, of which I am currently the President. 

As a preamble, just as with Option 3A, Option 2A is not perfect.  Compromises may have to be made, including potentially a need to adjust the development plan (Secondary Plan) for the Langstaff Gateway Regional Centre. Fortunately, no recent new development has occurred at Langstaff yet, although it may be imminent.  As our ideas are very high level, feel free to adjust them to make them more workable. 
The Figures below show two route concepts. 

Option 1 – From Yonge St at the cemetery, using tight curves of 600 feet radius (same as on Line 1 at Union), we believe Bridge Station can be reached for an across-platform interchange with GO Trains.  This route would almost certainly incur a maintenance penalty. 

Option 2 – From Yonge St at the cemetery, using curves of larger radii, a point 75 meters west of Bridge Station can be reached.   This could easily be incorporated into the Station, as per the rough hand-drawn sketch. The 75 m area between the subway and the GO line would make good retail space. 

We presume that cut & cover would be used to construct this portion, so track slopes should not be an issue. The Bridge Station sketch shows the subway at one level below the at-grade GO tracks, which can readily be incorporated in the station design. The bus concourse would be one level above the tracks, as proposed in your Option 3A. 
Pomona Creek is in a culvert 3 mbg near the proposed subway crossing.   Engineering would have to figure out how to best cross this culvert (over/under) or otherwise alter the creek. If the Holy Cross Cemetery could be persuaded to allow access to a corner of parkland at their northwest corner, the curve radius could perhaps be increased. 


Transport Action Ontario looks forward to your review of theses ideas.  We will be happy to answer any questions. 
Best regards, 


Peter Miasek

President, Transport Action Ontario

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