Port of Churchill sold, rail repairs to commence immediately, says Ottawa

Ottawa has confirmed that repair work will begin immediately on the Hudson Bay rail line in northern Manitoba.

Federal government officials said Aug. 31 that a consortium known as the Arctic Gateway Group Limited Partnership has purchased the railway from OmniTRAX Inc.

The deal also includes the Hudson Bay Port Company and the Churchill Marine Tank Farm.

The Arctic Gateway Group is a private-public partnership comprising Missinippi Rail Limited Partnership, Fairfax Financial Holdings & AGT Limited Partnership.

In a news release issued Aug. 31, Western Economic Diversification Canada welcomed the sale and said the federal government will “support the Arctic Gateway Group in co-ordinating repairs to the Hudson Bay rail line.”

Construction crews have been mobilized, and work will begin immediately, government sources said.

“All efforts will be made to restore the rail service before winter 2018,” the Aug. 31 new release states.

“In the meantime, the safety and security of residents remains Canada’s priority and current community support programs for food, fuel and economic development will remain in place until rail service resumes.”

Jim Carr, federal minister of international trade diversification, said he was pleased to announce that restoration work would begin shortly, linking Churchill and the surrounding communities to the rest of Canada.

“I want Canadians living in northern Manitoba and Nunavut to know that the Government of Canada understands the importance of the line to their daily lives,” Carr said.

“Thank you for your patience and to the buying group for committing to begin work on the repairs.”

Added Dominic LeBlanc, federal minister of intergovernmental and northern affairs and internal trade: “The restoration of the rail line is important for the people of Churchill and the surrounding communities who depend on it for their food supply and for the export of their grain.…

“Our government made a commitment to the residents of northern Manitoba and we have delivered. I applaud the work of all those involved to resolve this long-standing issue and look forward to the re-establishment of rail service.”

A section of the Hudson Bay Railway has been closed since early 2017 after spring flooding caused extensive damages.

Repair costs have been estimated in the range of $40 to $60 million.

Fairfax Financial president Paul Rivett said those repairs will commence as quickly as possible.

Rivett also serves as director of Arctic Gateway Group.

“Phase one of the project will be to repair the rail line, undertake safety and rehabilitation upgrades to the Port and the Railway assets,” Rivett said.

“We will commence the repairs and do all we can to restore service expeditiously and safely. We are racing against time. We will immediately begin our work to make the broader project also a reality.”

Contact brian.cross@producer.com

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