The co-chair of a group advocating the return of passenger trains to the north says she is optimistic progress is being achieved after the Province this week issued an information gathering survey.
Ontario has launched an online survey looking for opinions on how to improve passenger rail and bus services between Toronto, North Bay, Timmins, and Cochrane.
Lucille Frith of Huntsville is with Northeastern Ontario Rail Network. She tells BayToday that the latest move is a positive step forward.
"It shows they are moving forward on the business plan to get the integrated bus-train line running. The Northeastern Ontario Rail Network did a survey a year ago and for 29 days we ran a survey and we had just under 5,000 responses to questions the government is currently asking."
The material was presented to Ontario Northland to be incorporated with the work it was doing to create a business plan to return passenger rail.
Frith says the new government survey may be in place because theirs was done by an advocacy group, or maybe just another box the government needs to tick off.
"But I encourage everyone, everyone, in northeastern Ontario to do the survey and send in their response. We are intending this week to send our survey directly to Transportation Minister Mulroney so she has the entire survey."
The government and Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli has said in the past their aim is to implement to plan before the end of their first term...that's just two years from now.
"The actual time frame to put this all together would require the start of service in early 2022," explained Frith. "This is still a big issue with northerners to have their transportation needs met. They have been left out. Certainly, the bus-train system is what was always proposed in the multi-modal transportation report
Responses to the survey will be used to explore options for passenger rail services and help form the future transportation plan for northern Ontario says a government news release.
"We're inviting everyone, particularly in northeastern Ontario, to take our survey and help build a transportation network that works for their needs," said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation. "The feedback we receive will be an important component to improving transportation options for northern communities and supporting economic growth in the north."
The Northeastern Ontario transportation survey seeks feedback on preferences for passenger rail and bus services in northeastern Ontario, including departure times, train frequency, travel time, and cost considerations. The survey is open to public feedback, including municipalities, Indigenous communities, businesses, and industry, with the deadline for all submissions on or before November 20.