Feds to help restore Churchill rail service

WINNIPEG, Sept. 8 (CNS) – The Canadian government says it’s prepared to restore rail service to Churchill, Man.

The rail line closed in the spring of 2017 after flooding damaged multiple sections of the route to the northern Manitoba community.

The owner of the line, OmniTRAX, said repairs would cost as much as US$60 million and it wasn’t prepared to pay without government assistance.

Residents of Churchill maintain the line is a public utility and has to be repaired before winter arrives. Some residents even travelled to Winnipeg to hold protests over the issue.

Previously, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Denver-based company had legal obligations to restore service to the community.

However, in a release today, the government said it is prepared to “facilitate discussion for the transfer of the rail line to a new owner and will work with that new owner to restore rail service.”

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At least two groups comprised of northern Manitoba First Nations have expressed interest in taking over the line.

Just yesterday, the government of Manitoba, said it would be willing to pay as much as C$500 million over 10 years to fix and maintain service. It wasn’t initially clear however, how much of that money would be new spending.

In the release, Ottawa said it’s prepared to act quickly to provide such support, provided that:   

•    The assets are transferred at a reasonable price taking into account OmniTRAX Inc’s obligations.

•    The new owner has support from First Nations and other communities along the route.

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•    The new owner has a viable business plan to operate the rail line safely, reliably and cost-effectively.

OmniTrax bought the government-owned port and Canadian National Railway’s (CN) rail line in 1997.

The port and rail line, built in the 1930s, were meant to serve northern communities and provide an alternate shipping route into and out of western and central Canada.

Canada’s only Arctic port moved 184,600 tonnes of grain during its 2015 shipping season, well off its average of 500,000 tonnes.

Omnitrax closed the port in 2016.

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  • Richard

    So, the Government (us taxpayers) is going to help rehabilitate the line again, which they rehabilitated before selling it to Omni Trax for next to nothing.

    Then they will sell it to the First Nations, who will again use our tax money to buy it as they don’t have their own, and then lobby in perpetuity for continued Government funds to keep it maintained and to cover losses.

    Let’s just rename the Churchill line to what it really is, Taxpayer Bleeding Railway.

    Or let’s just declare that it is the national interest to have a rail link to the Hudson Bay and be honest. But stop pretending there is some financially viable plan to make it self sufficient.

    How about some investigative journalism?

    • John Fefchak

      They ( the governments ) have no problem spending taxpayers money. Your points are well taken Richard.

      Global Warming is upon us.
      History tells us that the railway to Churchill was laid some 85 + years ago…a life line to the people who lived there. It was well used, militarily, commercially and for the tourists and visitors. I have been there several times during my military career.
      The past years have been troublesome and challenging for the railway.
      I am one who believe that with the world warming trend occurring, the muskeg and perma frost areas are slowly collapsing; and they will no longer support this method of travel. Reconstruction/rebuilding and maintenance would be extremely costly.
      Churchill may have to accept that it will be an isolated port, only accessible by air and water.

      • Harold

        I will tell you John, if those rail cars were transporting oil, all of your issues of infrastructure would have been addressed long ago, like it is addressed DAILY nationwide; the conditions at Churchill are not unique. Further, the Government is supposed to spend our money, but they are tasked to do it wisely, and to that end they are incompetent and they fail miserably. One recent example; 20 million dollars was given to the Clinton foundation in the USA, and 10.5 million was given to a Canadian terrorist, when the Churchill rail (a commerce utility that government are entrusted to protect) was in need of repair. Another example is the billions of dollars taken from the tax payers of Canada and gifted to the Paris Accord to fight the permafrost and bog issues in Churchill for which Churchill or Canada will not receive one penny for in return. How much money, economic collapse, joblessness, energy starvation, energy poverty people, does it take to reduce the global temperature by 0.3 degrees by the year 2025? If you ignore past-time and now-time facts, future time fiction is an easy sell these days. You just need to repeat the fearful fiction a thousand times and it becomes a fact and deeper in meaning when you yell it or repeat it in unison with many others.

        • John Fefchak

          “They are tasked to do it wisely….but fail miserably”. BINGO!
          Propaganda is an effective tool ….It gets used a lot by governments, businesses and industry to influence an audience
          and further an agenda.

        • ed

          Maybe if they use it to transport cannabis they would be able to get the whole line fixed for “pot freedom day”. We could transition back to steam engines and could throw in the odd bale here and there to clean up the coal use a bit, sort of like a Hybred e-cigarette for a little promotional aroma therapy and simply fast track a bunch of Omnitraxs/Omnibus Liberal Policy all at once. We can then get on to a true “user” pay system in regards to the Churchill rail line at least.

          • Harold

            Not to caste a judgment on the use of cannabis but the issue of cannabis freedom is another failed Trudeau promise. The thought got him elected and that is all he cared about.

          • ed

            Aggreed. You are most likely be right on this one.

      • Richard

        Well said and thought out, I too think the days are numbered for the line unless it can be reconstructed for lighter weight trains and loads, but then that drives up the cost per tonne and makes it uneconomical versus water. ANd to what end? I too have taken the train up to Churchill and back. It was quite the experience.