Ontario Northland Transportation Commission
|Headquarters||North Bay, Ontario, Canada|
|Owner(s)||Government of Ontario|
ONTC operates the following public services in Northern Ontario:
- Ontario Northland Railway, offering freight and passenger rail transport
- Ontario Northland Motor Coach Services, offering inter-city bus and parcel transport
- Ontera, a telecommunications company
In March 2012, the government of Ontario announced its intention to wind down the ONTC, discontinue the Northlander passenger train service, and sell off the corporation's commercially valuable assets.
ONTC traces its history to 1902 with the passage of the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway Act, which received Royal Assent on March 17. The Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway Commission (TNORC) would oversee the construction and operation of the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway (T&NO). The sod was turned less than two months later by Ontario's Commissioner of Public Works, the Honourable Francis Robert Latchford, at Trout Lake on the outskirts of North Bay; North Bay also being the site of the "first spike" driven in construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) 20 years previous.
Building the 253 mile T&NO main line from North Bay to Cochrane was instrumental in opening this region of the province for development and settlement, with its construction being cited as the reason for the discovery of a massive silver deposit at Cobalt, as well as gold at Porcupine and Kirkland Lake.
In subsequent years, the TONRC authorized extending the railway first into western Quebec's gold and copper fields at Rouyn-Noranda and, following World War I, in 1921, the TONRC began extending the T&NO northward from Cochrane to the shores of James Bay at Moosonee, where the T&NO "Last Spike" was driven by the Honourable Justice Francis Robert Latchford in 1932. The Commission also worked closely with sister provincial Crown agency, the Ontario Hydro-Electric Commission, in developing hydroelectric generating stations on rivers in the region, such as at Island Falls and Fraserdale.
In 1937, the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway Act was amended, enabling the TNORC to operate buses, trucks, and aircraft in order to transport passengers and freight. By 1938 the Commission had acquired 11 buses. In 1945, the Commission acquired the Temagami and the Nipissing Navigation Companies.
The railway changed its name in 1946 to the present Ontario Northland Railway and the associated commission changed its name to reflect this. The use of the word "transportation" instead of "railway" in the commission's new name reflected an expanded mandate for the organization.
The railway is still operated today by the commission, which also operates other transport modes, including bus motor coach services along the Toronto-North Bay-Timmins-Hearst and Toronto-Sudbury-Timmins highway corridors, and a telephone and telecommunications company (Ontera). It formerly operated a regional airline named NorOntair.
End of an era: the ONTC winds down
On March 23, 2012, the Ontario Government announced that it would begin to wind down the ONTC, citing increased costs to the government and stagnant ridership. Passenger train service between Toronto and Cochrane will be withdrawn and replaced with additional bus service, and all assets of the corporation will be sold off. No firm dates for these changes have yet been released.