Canadian government ready to help group buy line to Churchill

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Churchillstranded
The washout of the line to Churchill, Manitoba, ended rail service to the community and stranded a VIA Rail Canada trainset in Churchill for several months.
Joe Stover

OTTAWA — The Canadian government has approved a financial deal to help a group purchase the Hudson Bay Railway route to Churchill, Manitoba, as well as Churchill’s port, the Winnipeg Free Press reports. The money will become available once current owner OmniTRAX signs the deal.

An earlier agreement to sell the line to a consortium of First Nation groups, pending since June 2017, collapsed earlier this year. [See “Sale of line to Churchill, Manitoba, falls through,” Trains News Wire, July 5, 2018.] The deal reported by the Free Press would provide funds for that group to make the purchase and begin repairs to the line. The only year-round ground transportation to the remote city on Hudson Bay has been closed since floods washed out portions of the route in May 2017 [see “Future of Hudson Bay Line ‘in jeopardy’ after catastrophic flood,” Trains News Wire, June 12, 2017]. Without the rail line, prices in the community have soared as supplies must be flown in, which in turn has led a number of residents to move elsewhere.

The newspaper reports that the federal government has been brokering talks between OmniTrax and the consortium to have the rail line and port transferred with the help of Toronto’s Fairfax Financial. Fairfax company AGT Foods owns railways in Saskatchewan which could provide equipment to help with repairs. The government hopes to have a deal finalized by the end of the month, with repair work beginning in September.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Transportation Agency has ordered OmniTRAX to show that work has begun to repair the line, as was ordered by the government in June. [See “Canadian government orders OmniTrax to repair line to Churchill,” Trains News Wire, June 15, 2018.] OmniTRAX, which has said it needs government assistance to do the extensive repairs, has requested bids for the repair work.

The complete Free Press report is available here.

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