Train route with stops in Muskoka moving forward in Ontario

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Published June 3, 2024 at 11:00 am

northlander train muskoka toronto northern ontario

If you want to take the train from Union Station in Toronto to Muskoka hotspots such as Huntsville, Bracebridge and Gravenhurst, that might happen in the not-too-distant future. 

Recently, the Province announced plans to bring back the Northlander, a northeastern passenger rail service that was cancelled by the previous government. Last week, the Province said it has awarded three contracts to design and manufacture nine new station shelters, enhance rail safety and complete warning system upgrades. 

The contracts have gone to Enseicom Inc. for the shelters, Remcan Ltd. for track improvements and X-Rail to complete warning system upgrades along the Northlander corridor north of North Bay.

The Ontario government said in a news release that this will jumpstart the process of resuming train service between Toronto and Timmins. 

Once complete, the route will boast stops in Matheson, Kirkland Lake, Temiskaming Shores, Temagami, South River, Huntsville, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Washago.

“People and businesses in northern and central Ontario deserve the same access to safe and reliable transportation as the rest of the province,” said Associate Transport Minister Vijay Thanigasalam in a statement. 

“Reinstating the Northlander will not only support our northern industries and resource sectors, but it will also pave the way for a more integrated transportation network that connects communities from the north to the south.”

The new station shelters will be equipped with seating, lighting and heating over the next two years. 

The province said construction of station platforms, parking areas and pathways–along with track improvements–will begin this summer Once reinstated, the Northlander will operate four to seven days a week, based on seasonal travel demands.

In April 2022, Ontario Northland released an updated initial business case for the project, which included a preferred route from Toronto to Timmins with a rail connection to Cochrane. In December of that year, the province announced the purchase of three new trainsets as part of its plan to reinstate the Northlander.

“We are pleased to see the Ontario government investing in shelters along the Northlander route, including right here in Bracebridge,” Bracebridge Mayor Rick Maloney said in a statement. 

“These upgraded amenities will contribute to providing safe, accessible transportation options to residents and visitors while helping support the growth and development of our local economy through improved access to tourism and job opportunities.”

According to the business case, the second option (terminating in Timmins while offering a connection to Cochrane) could see ridership of up to 60,110 passengers by 2041. This option also suggests the route could produce economic benefits between $66 and $132 million. 

Total costs could amount to about $564 million.  

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