Every person in Ontario pays $155.62 a year to support the GO trains and buses that operate in southern Ontario. Meanwhile, the provincial subsidy for the now-defunct Northlander passenger train cost 86 cents for every man, woman and child in the province, according to Eric Boutilier.
Boutilier, a member of the Northern and Eastern Ontario Rail Network, said Tuesday it is possible to bring passenger rail service back to northeastern Ontario. It’s going to take a fight to do so, he said, but it’s a fight that’s well worth the effort.
“In Northern Ontario, we have very limited options for transportation,” Boutilier said. “If you want to get anywhere, you have to take the highway.” But particularly in winter, he said, that option is not always do-able.
Over the past three years, he said, Highway 11 has been closed close to 200 times in winter between Muskoka and Hearst. The average delay was six-and-a-half hours. Highway 17 between Mattawa and Sudbury, he said, was closed 178 times in that same period, at an average of 13 hours.
“This is what we are dealing with,” he said. “It’s not like southern Ontario. We don’t have the luxury, if the highway is closed, of taking an alternate route. There probably isn’t going to be a detour,” or any detours will take much longer to traverse.
NEORN, he said, is trying to bring the issue of passenger rail service to the attention of Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill.
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