Consultant claims ONTC no fan of passenger rail: Crown railroader counters it's teamed up with Metrolinx on business case to restore train service.

Author:Ross, Ian
 
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A railway consultant has released portions of a conceptual plan on how passenger service can be fully revived in northeastern Ontario.

But Greg Gormick of On Track Strategies questions whether Queen's Park has the political will to do it and if the province can overcome institutional resistance within management at the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) to return the service that was cancelled in 2012.

"We're not talking about a transportation problem here, we're talking about a political problem."

However, the North Bay-headquartered commission counters it's currently working on a plan with a sister Crown agency in southern Ontario to bring back the service.

Gormick, a respected Oshawabased rail and transit analyst, delivered stinging criticism of the attitude within the North Bay-headquartered Crown agency based on his discussions and messages with a senior executive at the commission last year.

Since late 2017, Gormick has been serving as a technical advisor to All Aboard Northern Ontario, a grassroots advocacy group headed by Eric Boutilier of North Bay.

Gormick released excerpts of his roughly 200-page report to Northern Ontario Business, including a private email from an alleged high-ranking ONTC executive who indicates there's little appetite internally to see the return of the train.

"I am not a proponent," said the Dec. 23 email from the senior executive to Gormick, reflecting on "where we stand within the ONR (Ontario Northland Railway)," much to the contrary of the campaign promises made by the Ford government and Nipissing MPP and cabinet minister Vic Fedeli.

Gormick declined to identify the person except to say that they are positioned directly below ONTC president-CEO Corina Moore. The individual sent the email through their personal account.

In the email, the executive questions if the population density north of North Bay justifies a taxpayer-funded rail service, alluding to Ontario Northland's recent expansion of regional bus service.

"We could easily feed passengers by bus to a train in North Bay at a fraction of the cost. The efforts and daily distractions involved in running passenger trains are considerable...."

The executive wrote that daily service between North Bay and Toronto could get "decent ridership," depending on the time of day and if transit times stayed consistently below five hours, but the person expressed concerns due to CN Rail's control of the tracks south of North Bay.

"So internally, I...

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