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Northbound freight service resumes after derailment

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Merv Tweed, president of Omnitrax Canada

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Merv Tweed, president of Omnitrax Canada Photo Store

It won’t be a train in vain.

A freight train left Thompson for Churchill around 3 p.m., carrying 28 cars filled with supplies destined for northern communities following last week's train derailment, Omnitrax Canada said Wednesday.

Omnitrax said it completed repairs to the Hudson Bay Railway line, and the line was "cleared in accordance with Transport Canada rules respecting track safety."

"Starting today and moving forward we are advising our customers and friends that our trains are moving again. Following thorough inspections by our experienced track inspectors, and the successful runs of two separate test trains, we are very pleased to welcome customers back onto the line to serve the communities of the North," stated Merv Tweed, president of Omnitrax Canada, in a press release.

On June 2, 13 cars carrying grain derailed just south of Churchill. Bad weather stalled repairs to the track and also prompted the cancellation of several Via trains carrying tourists.

Unstable permafrost has traditionally made the rail line prone to long delays and derailments. It’s one reason environmental groups balk at a plan by Omntrax to ship crude oil to the port of Churchill.

Since Omnitrax took over the railway in 1997, the company says it has spent $110 million on improvements, in addition to the $40 million invested by the provincial and federal governments.

A Via Rail representative said passenger rail service to Churchill is not yet available and didn’t know when it will resume.

Passenger service is currently available as far north as Gillam, the representative said. Via Rail posted a message on its website indicating it is not offering "alternate transportation" between Gillam and Churchill at this time.

The lack of passenger rail service to Churchill is proving frustrating to some.

In an emailed complaint sent to the Free Press, a Churchill resident wrote: "It is extremely frustrating to not know what is happening. It feels like we are hostages in our own town. Imagine what it would feel like to have the Perimeter Highway locked. Oh and for the record it costs between $1,300 and $2,200 to fly down to Winnipeg so that is not a reasonable option for a lot of people."

History

Updated on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 7:35 PM CDT: Adds passenger rail service details, adds photo.

7:52 PM: Adds comment from reader on passenger rail service to Churchill.

8:02 PM: Adds more details about passenger rail service.

8:08 PM: Changes headline.

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