‘This mad­ness needs to stop’

Group aims to make rail, bus ser­vice an elec­tion pri­or­ity

North Bay Nugget - - FRONT PAGE - NUGGET STAFF

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.

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