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Ontario Northland bus service to start northwestern Ontario routes this weekend

First bus expected to depart for Thunder Bay at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Ontario Northland
Ontario Northland buses will start rolling through northwestern Ontario on Sunday, May 17, 2020. (Jonathan Wilson/TBT News)

Bus service to Ontario’s northwest is scheduled to return this weekend.

The provincially funded Ontario Northland buses begin their routes through the region on Sunday, May 17. A pair of buses arrived in the city on Tuesday from Sault Ste. Marie, part of a training exercise for staff, before continuing westward.

Sources indicate the Happy Times Tour property on Walsh Street will act as the Thunder Bay terminal for the immediate future.

The new route along Lake Superior’s North Shore was announced in February and was slated to begin in mid-April, but was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's great news," said Northwestern Ontario Muncipal Association (NOMA) president Wendy Landry. "We've been advocating for the connection to our communities ever since Greyhound went down – even before Greyhound went down on the intercommunity bus services. 

"Now with Kasper (Transportation) taking a break with his service as well, there's absolutely no ability for people to transfer from the Sault Ste. Marie area to Thunder Bay." 

Landry said that still leaves concerns about the western portion of the region, but added NOMA has been talking to Ontario Northland about those plans, as well as connectivity with a route along Highway 11. 

"But we're excited. It's a start, and to be able to service the municipalities along that way and to be able to get to the city for whatever appointments ... I guess now's a good time to start. There are still concerns with COVID, but planes are going and subway trains are going in southern Ontario, so why not have this bus service going?" 

The province, which declined comment on Wednesday, is expected to officially announce the start of service on Thursday.

The first bus will leave Thunder Bay for Sault Ste. Marie at 2 p.m. on Sunday, with a return trip scheduled to arrive in the city the following morning.