Arctic Gateway, new owners of the Hudson Bay Rail line railway to Churchill issues warning that recent snowfall and last month’s fatal derailment just might delay restoration of northern rail service until the spring. The consortium took ownership of the Railway and Port of Churchill on August 31.
Despite regular postings on social media of intense progress on track repairs, Arctic Gateway spokesman Murad Al-Katib stated that crews are working tirelessly on the tracks despite the snow, “but it remains possible that this work cannot be completed prior to the onset of winter.”
Despite the fact that workers would soon complete fixing all the washouts that occurred along the line during flooding in May 2017, the strength of the line still needs testing by transporting equipment north to Churchill.
“Even if the washout repairs occur prior to winter, it is still possible that rail service will not be restored until the spring,” wrote the chief executive officer of Saskatchewan grain giant AGT Foods.
He noted rail companies and governments have offered to help, “but it may take time to get the right equipment up to the repaired section of the line.”
However due to the recent deadly derailment that occurred on Sept. 15, near Ponton, south of Thompson, Al-Katib has indicated that might severely delay transporting equipment near Churchill. The derailment track section remains closed while inspections of the incident continue.
A washout, most likely resulting from beaver dams clogging culverts caused the derailment according to the Transportation Safety Board. In the derailment a 38-year-old worker was killed. Arctic Gateway has since revamped the beaver – control program which was dropped in 1997 by previous owner Omnitrax from the USA.
All in all, Arctic Gateway seems to be moving in a very positive direction with the rail – line. We are all excited to see the first train roll into Churchill in the near future!
Arctic Gateway, new owners of the Port of Churchill and the Hudson Bay Railway, are continuing their incredible perseverance to complete repairs before the winter settles in. These images provided by Arctic Gateway give us a current look into what they have been up to this past week. There will be more progress reports and photos as we get access to them and by later next week we should have a good indication of how the rest of the work will go. Let’s continue to hope for good weather so the crews can get the job done and the Via Rail train can run all the way to Churchill again!
Aerial view of a washout along the Hudson Bay Rail line. Arctic Gateway photo.
Heavy equipment lifting damaged track from the line in Manitoba. Arctic Gateway photo.
Laying the foundation for one of the many washouts along the Hudson Bay Line in Manitoba. Arctic Gateway photo.
Steamroller packing the ground of a washout. Arctic Gateway photo.
Two steamrollers pack the ground next to a newly installed culvert used for drainage. Arctic Gateway photo.
An ice age remnant boulder uncovered by the Hudson Bay line as work continues. Arctic Gateway photo.
The Arctic Gateway group, new owners of the Port of Churchill and the 100 mile stretch of track known as the Hudson Bay Line, are working diligently to repair all the washouts and problem spots along the line. Weather is cooperating and hopes are high the work can be completed before winter blows in from the north. Hopes for finishing before the polar bear season in October are a longshot at best. So far, so good as these photos from Arctic Gateway portray. What a relief to all the people living along the tracks and especially those residents in Churchill, the northern terminus of the railway.
This video by CTV News signals the announcement of the Port of Churchill and the Hudson Bay Rail Line is truly official. Churchill residents are ecstatic over the news and repairs to the rail line are already underway with hopes of finishing before the winter freeze-up hits! What amazing news for the town and everyone involved!
Future of the Port of Churchill is a bit foggy. Photo Steve Selden
The Canadian federal transportation regulator ruled last week that Omnitrax Canada is responsible for long-overdue repairs to the Hudson Bay Rail line linking Churchill with the south. The order mandates the tracks restored to usable condition, as quickly as possible.
This new development in the ongoing saga between Port of Churchill owners, Omnitrax, and the government seems to be coming to a crescendo of sorts. Repairs to the Hudson Bay Railroad have been ordered to begin by July 3rd with the additional requirement of filing monthly progress reports on the status of repairs. The Canadian Transportation Agency will be overseeing the project.
According to the transportation regulator, Omnitrax, as the current owner, is bound by a public obligation to restore the tracks and reinstate train service to the isolated communities and the “reasonable pause” in operations has elapsed. The tracks were washed out in May of 2017 due to flooding from two late spring blizzards.
The Canadian Transportation Agency maintains that the Denver-based company was contractually bound to initiate a reasonable plan to repair the tracks the by November 2017. Omnitrax hired an engineering company, AECOM, to assess the damage and then balked at the estimated $60 million estimate of repair costs. Company officials assert the transportation lifeline to the north should be treated as a public utility since commercial ownership of the railway line is no longer viable. The government has been insinuating that Omnitrax is trying to shirk its responsibilities since the time of the flooding.
Omnitrax’s argument continues with the premise that the flood was a “force majeure” event defined as an exceptional happening that nixes the firm’s contractual obligations.