Passenger rail returning ‘is tremendously exciting,’ said Mayor Peter Chirico

The Northlander passenger train is set to ride the rails in 2026. To announce its pending return, and to gather feedback from future passengers, members of the Ontario Northland team are setting up shop at each stop along the track, and today’s stop was at the Ontario Northland Station in North Bay.

“This is tremendously exciting,” said Mayor Peter Chirico. “We’re one year into the program now, and we’re two and half away to getting there.”

It was last December, within this very station, when the Associate Minister of Transportation at the time, Stan Cho, announced he would be purchasing three train sets that would be used for the return of the Northlander passenger train service, recalled Ontario Northland’s CEO, Chad Evans.

“People are very excited to travel by train throughout Northern Ontario.”

See: The Northlander getting back on its rails

Alan Spacek, the Commission Chair of Ontario Northland, emphasized how “the government has been very supportive of this project, and of course, Minister Fedeli has been extremely supportive of reinstating that service.”

Both are very excited to get the Northlander back on track, and at these community information events, folks are happy to hear the news. “It’s been a very positive response,” Evans said, “a lot of support from all demographics and future riders of the Northlander train.”

People are encouraged to offer their thoughts on the future train service as well, including the final design of the train’s paint job. There are two options available, and so far, the votes are tight. Ontario Northland is also taking suggestions for its future menu, including drink suggestions. As for drinks, “good coffee” is leading the way, as are a handful of beer suggestions.

The three trains have been ordered, Evans emphasized, and they will be built in California by Siemens, which will begin building the trains early next year. The cost is $139.5 million. The new trains will have engines on both the front and the back and be designed with accessibility in mind for all riders. Ontario Northland estimates that once the train gets going, it could service between 40 to 60 thousand passengers a year.

“It’s a modern, state of the art train set,” Evans emphasized. Brand new and built for the purpose of becoming the Northlander. Better equipped for longer distances and colder climates.

See: Province just purchased three new trainsets for Northlander: Ford

Ticket prices are still on the drawing board but will be announced in due time.

Discontinued in 2012, the Northlander is set to return with stops in Matheson, Kirkland Lake, Englehart, Temiskaming Shores, and Temagami. The Polar Bear Express will continue to roll between Timmins and Cochrane. And riding from North Bay southward you’ll stop at South River, Huntsville, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Washago, Gormley, Langstaff, and end at Union Station in Downtown Toronto.

From North Bay, it will take about two and half hours to get to Bracebridge and about five hours to Union Station.

Mayor Chirico is thrilled to see another travel alternative coming to the North, and noted how council has been supportive of the project. “People need that alternative to get to Toronto, whether it be for medical, visiting family or just for entertainment.”

“This is going to be a great alternative,” and having less vehicles on the roads will also benefit the environment, Chirico added. Asked what his first destination will be aboard the new Northlander, Chirico responded with a laugh, “if that first train coming through is going north, I’ll be heading north, and if it’s going south, I’m going south.”

“Absolutely, I’ll be on it.”

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,