Today the province announced they are winding down the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission. Minister of Northern Development and Mines Rick Bartolucci made the declaration this morning in North Bay saying the government has tried to keep the ONTC afloat since 2003 by increasing its funding by 274-percent, while demand for the service has flat lined. In the interim a transition board has been appointed to work with Chairman Ted Hargreaves to begin the breakup of the commission and no employees or ONTC services will be affected.
Bartolucci added Ontario had subsidized costs at $400 per passenger and that was no longer economically viable. Bartolucci says the current subsidy on the Northlander train is $400 per passenger and no longer affordable. A breakdown of the overall accounts for the ONTC shows the following:
▪ Government funding has increased from $28 million annually in 2003-04 to $103 million this year.
▪ Ridership has remained stagnant at about 320,000 rides a year.
▪ Sales revenues have declined from $140 million in 2005 to just over $100 million this year.
▪ Private buses serve most of the same communities.
Meanwhile the board’s mandate is as follows:
▪ Ensure the ongoing operation of the Polar Bear Express service
▪ Divest commercially valuable assets such as rail freight, rail refurbishment and Ontera telecommunications
▪ Begin the process of cancelling the Northlander train service that runs between Toronto and Cochrane. It will be replaced with enhanced bus service
▪ Tender bus services for other operators to service existing bus routes
▪ Consolidate the ferry service between Moosonee and Moose Factory with other provincial ferry services.