(With files from Rocco Frangione – MyNorthBayNow.com)

Passenger rail to Muskoka and Northern Ontario has the backing of the provincial finance minister.

Following a story Thursday about a possible return of passenger service through Muskoka, Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli has reconfirmed the provincial government’s commitment to restoring passenger rail service from Toronto to Cochrane.

Fedeli said the Tories made a commitment during last year’s election campaign to restore the Cochrane to Toronto service during the party’s first term.

“It’s important to me and I believe it’s important to the north for all the reasons we mentioned in the campaign and it’s something we continue to work on,” Fedeli said.

Lucille Frith, a co-chair for North Eastern Ontario Rail Network (NEORN)  and the Committee Promoting Muskoka Rail Travel (CPMRT) says as little as six years ago passenger traffic was fairly robust in Muskoka despite no marketing or other information that it was even possible to take a train to the area.

She reveals in the last year of operation the Ontario Northland service saw 50 per cent of passengers got off or on between Toronto and North Bay. This would equal just under 20,000 riders in 2011-2012.

All Aboard Northern Ontario had planned to make the case to the federal and provincial governments on how to restore passenger rail.

However, Fedeli doesn’t believe the Ford government needs what the grassroots group could have provided.

“I’m sure Ontario Northland and the provincial government have a tremendous amount of experts in the transportation and rail industry,” he said.

“And I know they have the intimate details on what it will take to do this and I know they are working on this diligently.”

So although All Aboard Northern Ontario may not be able to move its initiative further anymore, for the time being, Fedeli says the province can move forward.

“We made a commitment and it’s part of our development and our intention to return passenger rail to the north and that’s still our intention,” Fedeli said.