North Bay, ON-- The Northern and Eastern Ontario Rail Network (NEORN) held a media launch August 14 in North Bay, Ontario to outline its goals and rail advocacy strategies.
The NEORN is a network composed of rail advocacy groups and stakeholders from across Northern and Eastern Ontario dedicated to the promotion of passenger and freight rail service throughout the region, and consistent with The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.
Created in 2013, NEORN is a partnership of stakeholders and potential supporters including, but not limited to: First Nations, municipalities, chambers of commerce, boards of trade, local railways, businesses, industries, industry associations, unions, local coalitions or action groups, environmental groups, and student groups.
“The organization, within Transport Action Ontario (TAO) advocates for, promotes, and monitors the revitalization of Northern and Eastern Ontario’s rail infrastructure and services as well as efficient connections with the GTA hub and other parts of the province. This will support an accessible, efficient, affordable passenger services and an effective, sustainable rail freight industry,” said the media release.
Among other goals, the NEORN is advocating for the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) to continue its role as transportation and communication provider for Northeastern Ontario in a properly governed and supported public agency under MTO similar to Metrolinx. It would like the ONTC to remain as a Northern and Eastern Ontario transportation planning authority (following the Metrolinx model) to coordinate and support interurban rail and bus passenger travel in the region (e.g. rail spine, bus feeders, intermodal hubs) that respects stakeholder needs of communities, First Nations, tourism and their members.
NEORN would also like Metrolinx 'to be mindful of the vital need for the north to be efficiently connected to the GTHA hub.' We will be monitoring and participating in Ontario’s “Northern Ontario Multi-Modal Transportation Strategy” for passenger and goods movement," said the release.
NEORN also aims to prevent future short line abandonments in the region, and would like to see new, dedicated provincial transportation revenue tools such as sales tax or fuel tax, "with the proviso that funds generated are directed to transportation projects in our region. We encourage local communities to participate in funding, expansion and operation of local railway stations," said the release.
NEORN said the lack of adequate rail services significantly restricts socio-economic development, local and regional wealth generation, and job creation in the region.
“All of the G8 countries, with the exception of Canada, have recognized the contribution rail service makes to their economies and are increasing investments in that infrastructure. Neglect of rail in Ontario has erected barriers to social and economic opportunity and development while necessitating a substantial over-investment of taxes into road repair and expansion. In a time of concern about rising fuel and road maintenance costs, the need to dramatically reduce carbon emissions and the need to provide the transportation infrastructure necessary for economic development, the existence of NEORN will improve our ability give input on passenger rail needs to policy makers,” said NEORN.
Following the launch, NEORN said it will be requesting meetings with policy-makers in First Nations, Municipalities, the Ontario and Federal governments to promote NEORN’s vision.