‘This madness needs to stop’
Group aims to make rail, bus service an election priority
A new advocacy group is campaigning to revive the Northlander passenger train and enhance VIA Rail service in the region.
All Aboard Northern Ontario calls the performance of the cross-country VIA train “dismal,” arguing it leaves Ontarians “from Sudbury to the Manitoba border in the lurch.”
The Northlander, meanwhile, should never have been scrapped by the Liberals, according to the group.
It says documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act “have already produced data that throws into question the wisdom of the train’s abandonment by the (Dalton) McGuinty government.”
Eric Boutilier, founder of All Aboard Northern Ontario, said in a release Thursday that now is the time “for a determined and wellresearched campaign” to revive the train, which formerly ran from Toronto to Cochrane, with North Bay as a hub.
“After more than two years of working with other groups to bring this about, it has become apparent that polite meetings with the very politicians and bureaucrats who cancelled the Northlander in 2012 result in nothing,” he said.
In the weeks ahead, All Aboard Northern Ontario plans to release a data-based proposal for the restoration of the Northlander.
“With a provincial election on the horizon, the issue of the Northlander needs to be placed before the public and the candidates of all political parties,” said Boutilier.
Action must also be taken on “the inadequate service provided by VIA, which is deteriorating rapidly,” he added.
“We intend to put these and other public transportation issues before the public and our elected officials before the isolation now being experienced by Northern Ontarians grows any worse.”
Boutilier pointed to a similar citizen movement in southwestern Ontario that is worthy of emulation.
“The way forward is the one now being pursued by the All Aboard St. Marys citizens committee,” he said. “That group has made the future of their region’s rail passenger service a major issue with the public, the media and politicians of all stripes. If there is to be any progress in Northern Ontario, that’s the route to go – and that is the route All Aboard Northern Ontario is going.”
The group also will be investigating and reporting on other Northern transportation issues, including ways to improve intercity bus service in the North.
“The provincial promise to improve intercity bus service in lieu of reinstating the Northlander has produced a reduction in the frequency of those very buses and endless additional studies by Queen’s Park,” Boutilier charged. “This madness needs to stop if Northern Ontarians – especially seniors, students and medical patients – are not to become even more isolated than they are now.”
All Aboard Northern Ontario launched its website and social media pages on Thursday, and encourages the public to review the information it has made available on the Northlander, as well as “the state of the region’s precarious transportation network” in general.
Northerners are also encouraged to share stories of how the cancellation of the Northlander has affected them personally.
The website can be found at allaboardnorthernontario.com.