20 comments on “Comments / Commentaires

  1. dennis

    I own a camp in the Spruce Lake area of Mile 38 Rd. if train fares were more reasonable I believe more people that own camps along the rail line would use it more.

  2. alan Jansson

    Wow, what transportation system in Northern Ontario are we talking about? The ONR passenger service has been deleted and was supposedly going to be replaced with enhanced and more efficient bus services to accomodate the needs of folks travelling to and from Northern Ontario. I don’t think this has happened and the elderly complain about the constant increase in bus transpotation fees, etc. Elimination of the train service was apparently for reasons of low and declining ridership, but what was done to improve the quality of the train service overall? Nothing. Hence, one reason for declining ridership. The ONR (south and northbound) was a pretty rocky and scary ride at times so the better option was to take the VIA out of Hornepayne…sorry, but thats the way it was. I rode the rails a few times and sitting and thinking about why folks were not using the services more I came to the conclusion that marketing in general was pretty crappy with very few incentives to better promote rail travel…there are some incentives on the busier routes in southern Ontario, but I can’t ever remember hearing or seeing anything to ONR services out of Cochrane. Elimination of any transportation system in the North is a slap in the face to us Northerners and this affects us in many ways…….

  3. Ross Wright

    Three years ago,I wanted to visit a friend in Kenora.I looked at options to travel there from Toronto,and found the bus leaves at midnight from here and gets there at midnight 24 hrs. later.
    The Via train doesn’t go into Kenora,but leaves you at Redditt,about 25km away from Kenora at midnight,with no way to get to Kenora unless you have a pre-arranged pickup time with someone.
    I had to fly from Hamilton on Westjet to Winnipeg to be picked up by a friend.What really annoyed me was when I saw the beautiful Kenora Rail Station being used as a freight office only.
    How can Ontario promote vacations in some of the most scenic areas of the province,when you cannot get there anymore by train? The CP line has all the scenery passing by Lake Superior,while the CN line is all bush and rock.We must keep Ontario Northland running again for the local folks as well as for vacationers to help the Northern Ontario economy.
    If a decent rail system is developed,more people will use it.

  4. Garry Besserer

    doing things by rail is more environmentally friendly than transport.

  5. Deryk Hagar

    I believe the state of rail in Northern Ontario is a reflection of major urban centers and the concentration of governance in those centers – not just the GTA but the 401 corridor in general. And it’s directly related to what those urban centers want to invest in, whatever the flavour of the week is.

    CPR abandoned their Ottawa valley mainline connection, over their leased rails with OVR, because it was more cost effective to use their Montreal – Smiths Falls – Toronto mainline, and then run up to Sudbury from T.O. (their rationale). While most communities protested along that eastern portion, the route was abandoned and the track pulled up. If the ROW goes up for sale, then there’s the nail in the coffin for that length of the route, likely never to be replaced. I’m not sure if that process has started yet, or if it is still owned by CPR. Note that it’s also Transport Canada (I believe) that has to rubber stamp these abandonments of country-wide critical infrastructure, which they’ve been readily doing.

    When the rail routes were being expanded in the late 19th and early 20th Century, city centers were out for one major thing – resource development that would be channeled directly into their cities – the heart of manufacturing and the business elite. The CPR channeled wealth into Montreal (where many of the financiers lived). When the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway was developed by the Crown c.1902 (after the private, Toronto-based Nipissing and James Bay Railway failed), it was always a major condition that the route would link directly with the Grand Trunk’s line to Toronto, at Nipissing Junction. It was pretty evident with Cobalt that Bay Street was the main benefactor – but that was the intended purpose. Large cities are out for themselves, make no mistake – it’s written all over the pages of the Globe newspaper from that era.

    What we’re faced with right now is a government and business class in Toronto that do not value the products or industry of Northern Ontario. They could care even less about the people, and that’s not just ‘sour grapes’ or pessimism – they honestly believe this region is a hand-out, dependent region that needs to be supported at the south’s expense. It’s a very ignorant understanding of resource economies, but then again, there’s no one down there that truly seems to understand such economies.

    The Liberals are particularly inept at understanding that health care and education development (hospitals and schools, etc.) cost a lot of money, and that ultimately that money comes from taxpayers in the form of income generated by actual, wealth-generating economies, which they have largely turned their backs on (manufacturing, mining, forestry, etc.) Hence the stupendous levels of debt that just keep rising – over spending, no income.

    I’m still a firm believer that with the decline of the fossil fuel economy, and rising prices, that the aviation industry (and perhaps trucking) will largely collapse and high-speed surface travel will be developed to replace it. Developments in electric-railways are striking in Japan, where Mag-lev trains are surpassing 500 kmph. Ontario and Canada are setting themselves seriously behind their world competitors (even the 401 Via rail corridor is non-electrified – perhaps the last in the industrialized countries). Bombardier continues to produce leading-edge light rail applications to European markets, while Canada barely uses their homegrown innovation.

  6. robert lawrence

    Deryk, you have written a well-informed piece on the prospects for expanded rail service in Northern Ontario. Unless there is an enormous expansion in the Ring of Fire area for example where thousands of people work and resouce wealth is extracted who will put billions of dollars into rail service? We live in an age of centralization where huge urban regions like Toronto attract the populace. Fuel costs alone pretty much dictate it and it is the pattern in all developing countries that are expansive. Different for Britain or parts of Europe where distances are trivial as compared to Canada. Unless there is resource expansion in the North there will be no major money for surface transportation. Sad but simple.

  7. Deryk Hagar

    Thank you Robert, though I still feel there is a large disconnect at the government and industry levels that is largely responsible for the state of things. Again, this isn’t cynicism, if we look at other developed, industrialized countries there’s something very out of sync with the wealth potential of the province, and where northern Ontario is at today.

    North Bay is 350 – 400 kms north of the GTA and the Golden Horseshoe – the most densely populated region in Canada, where the majority of manufacturing is (was?) located. Historically, and presently, we have some of the best transportation infrastructure to bridge us directly into those markets. I would make the argument those southern regions of the province are deriving materials and products from the east and west, including the St. Lawrence seaway & the United States and disregarding in-Province development and supply that offer huge potential (save mega-quarries perhaps, and agricultural products). We’ve seen the McGuinty’y/Wynne government’s attitudes towards rural and northern Ontario – in essence, the ‘real wealth’ generating centers of the province. Forced wind-farms that usurp land-owner rights and blatantly disregard their say in the matter, northern resource companies moving to Quebec, tenders for Crown companies given to Quebec, expanding gambling as a source of revenue, etc. They call it a globalized way of doing business, yes, to everyone else’s benefit, not ours. These are utterly depleting and foolish policies that are ultimately self-destructive, even for the urban centers they claim to be working for.

    One viable sector would be a Scandinavian-inspired sustainable softwood lumber and bio-fuel industry, even so far as seeking investment, capital and expertise to develop these things from leading companies in Norway, Sweden and Finland. The climates here are very much the same, as are the timber resources. I see a Brazilian mining giant working the Sudbury nickel deposits (Vale), I don’t see similar global investment in the forestry sector. (Weyerhauser pulled up stakes, Georgia Pacific bought a plant here and there…) NAFTA and American cheating / illegal import tariffs didn’t help this sector either. These are hugh future potential industries that must be sustainable, but are being ignored in preference for the shorter-term and immediate potential of oil exports. Quebec recently pumped millions into Temiskaming’s Tembec plant – which happens to be serviced by OVR (a RailAmerica shortline railway). I can’t recall a similar level of support from the Ontario Government to an Ontario lumber company, or at least making hydro competitive to produce here.

    When the T.& N.O. railway was first proposed, the board of directors were seriously considering making it a hydro-electric railway – the power would have come from dams in northern Ontario, making for a highly efficient and modern railway with greatly lowered operating costs. That kind of vision is still feasible, but highly unlikely due to the small-mindedness and ignorance of government. When was the last time someone from our provincial government travelled overseas, attended conferences, developed contacts and proposals with foreign expert companies? Or at least tried to understand what made those foreign markets tick, and use their strategies for success? If it’s a global playing field, where is the province selling us abroad? They’re not. They’re making ridiculously over-priced contracts with European companies to purchase their wind-turbine innovations. What about our products, or our potential innovation, which is sorely lacking due to lack of support?

    These potential industries can’t happen when a self-serving bureaucrat like Bartolucci puts all of the eggs into the Sudbury basket, ignores industry-killing hydro rates all over the north, lobbies for smelters to go into Sudbury’s back yard while talking with CN or CP to take ore from a transport-trailer road to the Ring of Fire. This government has a clear bias towards individual Liberal – held ridings, and prefers investing dollars into automotive forms of transportation. If the North wasn’t so fractured politically, industry wouldn’t suffer so much.

  8. Deryk Hagar

    Robert: You are correct, the Bombardier links I posted are not viable in Northern Ontario, not at all. I meant to illustrate that this Canadian company (with European branches) demonstrates the disconnect between what we are capable of innovating, but seemingly not capable of implementing in our country. But electric rail using overhead catenary wire systems are a well established, cost efficient technology that have been developed for 100 years. In a future age when fossil fuel prices rise and begin stalling the economy and our transportation infrastructure, an electric railway powered by hydro-dams is far more sustainable for the future than anything we see today (even nuclear), regardless of geographic regions. However, the production and use of that hydro electricity should stay in northern Ontario, and not be regulated-by and over-priced by ignorant governments in Toronto. Bartolucci and his urban-centric Liberals believe that a sustainable northern Ontario means investing in roads, huge maintenance costs on those roads due to the harsh climate here (plowing, repairing, resurfacing, etc), and heavy transport-trucking over those roads. We’ll see how ‘sustainable’ that is in the future.

    You are right about the US being a competitor in the softwood lumber industry – they were a more equal partner at one time. But I think it was during the Cretien / Martin years that the US was found guilty (by repeated court rulings) for placing illegal trade tariffs on our lumber exports. Our so called friends and trading partners to the south virtually destroyed our softwood lumber industry with their illegal, protectionist measures. And then there’s Ontario Liberal energy policy too.

    I’ve read a bit on the Scandinavian forests – they were actually decimated in the 18th and 19th centuries by over-logging and much of the diversity was diminished – but they began their sustainable policies over 100 years ago and have developed them ever since. There must be a wealth of lessons to be learned and understood from their history, and present economics. Bear in mind Harper and others have claimed that we should expand our resource exports beyond the US and focus on not only China, but also Europe. Engineered wood products are a huge growing industry in Europe right now because of their increasingly strict environmental policies, but they despise the Harper conservatives for their stance on tar-sands developments and clubbing baby seals. Our reputation over there is not very good right now – and that is reflected in unrealized trade opportunities. Why are we alienating ourselves from many of the wealthiest and technologically progressive countries in the West?

    Europe offers a huge market potential that remains largely untapped, but is heavily regulated, with a growing cultural divide over sustainability and the environment. Bombardier is succeeding in those markets because they adapt and provide what those countries want – Italy and the Zefiro train is one example. In the long run, they are cost-efficient with much-reduced operating costs.

    China offers a huge market potential that is far less regulated, cheaper and easier to deal with, largely non-unionized and seeking older forms of energy – oil. The oil and Alberta bias with the Harper government, at least I feel, has grossly overshadowed other developments like the Ring of Fire and softwood. Even now they’re debating more about transporting oil through the pipelines in Northern Ontario than Ring of Fire development. It’s clear to see that the latter would benefit Northern Ontario far more. Why should we be reduced to a transit area for western oil to eastern Canada? All of these policies ultimately affect the viability of our rail-infrastructure.

  9. Debbie

    Public safety must come first. Cutting costs have caused major accidents with trains in Canada. Rising costs from these types of incidents drives up costs and people go to other modes of transportation. I love the trains but I don’t see it returning anytime soon. When people put respect for others back into their lives and leave cellphones alcohol and cutting others off with illegal lane changes we may get to enjoy travel answer once knew it. My last train ride from Toronto to Niagara was horrific. The speed was terrifying and I vowed never to ride again. I realized it wasn’t the bus and could not pull the button to get off. I read less than a month or so later the train crased and conductors died. My last ride on the Queen Elizabeth Highway was the same. Riding home from a picnic with a friend a car made an lane change in and out of traffic so dangerously close that I thought for sure we would e spinning out of control. I asked myself, How could I even get a license plate number at that rate of speed? So look at LacMegantic and France if they could have done something better to save lives. Safety measures keep costs down. Speed has always been a factor in most horrific accidents along with alcohol and texting. Unless the government takes it more seriously and enforces decent penalties and random inspections like the trucking industry with tires falling off and killing people we won’t see much train travel. I wanted to take my niece and nephew on their first train ride and it won’t be happening anytime soon. Via rail a national treasure like hockey is gone from Niagara Falls is gone and won’t be back anytime soon. I can’t say I blame them they have to provide maintenance on the railway tracks as much as the locomotives and cars. People and governments don’t care much anymore when they leave one conductor to do the work of two or three men and bear all the responsibility. Thank God I enjoyed the trains when I took them to Toronto on regular basis. I have the best memories. Good luck with your endeavors. Remember safety first keeps costs down and the people will come. God Bless. Debbie.

  10. Greg Tatton

    I am very interested in the return of rail passenger service to Northern Ontario. However two issues come to mind that our politicians are truly to blame for. For one our government did not look at the reasons for low ridership. People need rail service but could not afford to use it. For example: I priced out rail fare for my family (father,mother, two children) and would cost me over $300 return from Huntsville to Toronto.
    That is insane. I can save $200 of that money by driving. The second problem is the vast amounts of wasted money given to the GTA for rapid transit. Good for Toronto but we of the North are not worth it. Our politicians are blind to the fact that life does exist above Finch Avenue.
    We need reliable and affordable rail service and people will use it. We should not be penalized by high gas prices when we do not have any other choice of transportation.

  11. Greg Tatton

    Just checked Ontario Northland bus fare. For a family of four and two are school age children, $433.00
    return from Huntsville to Toronto. So if I wanted to take my daughter to an appointment at Sick Kids Hospital, that is what it would cost for bus fare. That is why I drive to Toronto instead.

  12. Andy Walker

    I am a retired CPR and Southern Ontario RR signal maintainer and agree enthusiatically that”finally” we are returning to rail transportation. The rail closures in the past 30 years have been thoughtless and were only done so the railways wouldn’t pay for unused track. I can think of the M&O (Montreal-Ottawa) line that was removed except for Hudson and Rigaud stations where many CNR office employees lived. I can think of 45 miles of good CPR track from Drummondville to the USA border removed and used as recreational trails. Why? Lack of traffic. I believe rail transportation is our future and the future is now. Stop ripping up lines and start networking them.
    I am with you “NEORN” and offer free, any assistance I can. Andy

    1. Michael Pawluch

      Andy: Im so glad you are doing well…..However, the railroads of the 20th century were notorious for mismanaging their assets then going into emergency mode to salvage what they could…….I remember when railroads were conglomerates of diverse companies from paper to Steamships to Steel Production. If the railways needed paper, they bought a paper mill, hardly a dollar ever left their conglomerate….and each branch made money for the company. This “cut our losses and run” philosophy is killing them……what they need is old time managment….

  13. Elwyn Behnke

    I have been watching CPR & CNR ripping up the lines through the Ottawa valley in dismay. According to the insurance bureau of Canada the cheapest train while sitting because of a car accident is $10,000 per hr. This line through the valley cut off 14 hrs per train, that amounts to $140,000 per train. If 6 trains pass per day that’s a profit of $840,000 per day. They said the scrap value was $40,000,000. In 48 days they would have that money back. That’s a good profit. These are numbers provided by the RR companies. This line is like a thoroughfare to the east . If CPR or CNR should be kicked out and let Ontario Northland do this service, and make the shipments arrive that much earlier ONR has all the equipment and passenger cars to serve CFB Petawawa and generate more business .There is a new mine opening at Bissett Creek, There is nickel consentrat coming from Trois Rivers Que, to Sudbury. The list goes on, If only somebody would show some direction to make money rather than just close them.

  14. Russ Nicholls

    Regarding the following! Demise of Rail Travel to Northern Ontario,
    On the last run of the Ontario Northland’s “Northlander train’ at least three of the coaches were carrying passengers from the three towns, Bracebridge Gravenhurst and Huntsville. This alone spoke volumes of the
    the way these communities felt about losing their only rail link between GTA and North Bay. The decision to discontinue rail operation had obviously been planned some time before doing so.
    Very shortly after this date, ONR came out with a fleet of new motor coaches. Now we have a major fleet of buses racing up and down our already over-crowded highways not too mention the damage they’re doing to our infa-structure.
    I don’t understand why four Rail Diesel Cars (RDC)s couldn’t have replaced the Northlander and if tourist traffic warranted it, add a coach on the rear.
    The Ontario Government could negotiate a lease agreement over the railway right-of-way with CNR to accommodate these trains.
    The RDCs would not need to be ‘new’ and the extra coach or coaches could be taken from ONR’s inventory of rolling passenger equipment.
    I’m certain the Provincial Government wouldn’t of had to purchase all these high valued coaches and our rail service would be restored utilizing older reconditioned equipment.
    There are at least three, possibly more, railway stations along the line to facilitate passenger accommodation.
    Remember, folks….we’re talking about taxpayer dollars here!

    Russ Nicholls – Huntsville Ontario

  15. Craig Stead

    I am a locomotive engineer with VIA Rail working out of Capreol and Sudbury. I see first hand, all of the people and communities that rely heavily on our passenger train service in Northern Ontario to run. With cuts too “privately owned” bus service in the north, and the remoteness of many northern communities, rail travel is becoming, not only the most environmentally conscious option, but for many people, the only option.

  16. NYC Expat

    It’s bizarre that GO Transit is not running at least seasonal trains to Muskoka. In NYC you can take commuter trains for 3 hrs going east to the end of Long Island. This should not even be a question for debate.

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