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Ontario Northland reducing bus service

Decision will impact Polar Bear Express, frequently serviced routes
20180828 Ontario Northland Bus
Ontario Northland is reducing service on some of its bus routes. (Supplied photo)

Ontario Northland is temporarily reducing bus service on the Polar Bear Express and some of its frequently serviced routes.

The North Bay-headquartered agency said the decision is in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effective March 26, the Polar Bear Express, which runs between Cochrane and Moosonee, will run Mondays and Thursdays. There will be no changes to departure and arrival times.

“Freight service between Cochrane and Moosonee will continue as scheduled Tuesday and Friday, ensuring the transportation of essential supplies including food, medical supplies, building materials, fuel and equipment,” the ONTC said in a news release.

“Ontario Northland made the decision in collaboration with the Mushkegowuk Council, Moose Cree First Nation and the Town of Moosonee, as a preventative measure in response to COVID-19.”

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As an additional precaution, the dining car on the Polar Bear Express passenger train has been temporarily suspended, and passsengers are encouraged to bring food and drink with them for the trip.

ONTC will also reduce service on routes that are serviced more than once daily.

These changes will not impact routes travelling from Sudbury to Timmins, Ottawa to Sault Ste. Marie, or Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst.

Reducing the frequency on select routes will give staff time to thoroughly clean equipment, the ONTC said.

As communities practise social distancing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, ridership levels have decreased, as people avoid non-essential travel, the ONTC said.

The ONTC said it’s also taking the following measures:
• limiting passenger capacity on its buses to support social distancing;
• enhancing cleaning protocols and increased disinfecting  of all hard surfaces that customers are likely to touch;
• increasing employee hygiene and wellness requirements; and
• increasing flexibility for passengers to reschedule or cancel tickets.

The agency said customers holding tickets on cancelled runs have been contacted to reschedule or receive a refund.