Churchill railway may be closed a second winter

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OTTAWA — The new owners of the railway to Churchill warned Thursday they may be unable to restore northern rail service until the spring because of recent snowfall and last month’s deadly derailment.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/10/2018 (1406 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — The new owners of the railway to Churchill warned Thursday they may be unable to restore northern rail service until the spring because of recent snowfall and last month’s deadly derailment.

The Arctic Gateway Group consortium took over Churchill’s railway and port Aug. 31. It’s been regularly posting photos and updates of its repairs along the Hudson Bay Railway on Facebook.

In a post on Thursday, spokesman Murad Al-Katib said crews continue to work on the tracks despite the snow, “but it remains possible that this work cannot be completed prior to the onset of winter.”

Arctic Gateway Group Snowfall and a Sept. 15 derailment near Ponton have set back efforts to reopen the tracks to Churchill.

He said while workers would soon complete fixing all the washouts that occurred during flooding in 2017, they still need to transport equipment north to test the line’s strength.

“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 said governments and rail companies have offered to help, “but it may take time to get the right equipment up to the repaired section of the line.”

On Sept. 15, a deadly derailment occurred near Ponton — which is south of Thompson and hundreds of kilometres west of the washouts — and closed a section of the line. Al-Katib has said that might complicate getting equipment closer to Churchill.

The section of the line where the derailment occurred remains closed as crews monitor the area for diesel contamination and investigators probe the derailment.

The Transportation Safety Board’s lead Manitoba investigator has said the derailment — in which a 38-year-old worker was killed — was due to a washout, most likely caused by beaver dams.

The Free Press has learned Arctic Gateway has reinstated a beaver-control program that the former owner, Omnitrax, had shelved.

The Teamsters union told the Free Press that CN Rail had a beaver-control specialist along its Hudson Bay Railway from at least the early 1990s, and he continued that role when Ottawa sold that portion of the line to Omnitrax in 1997.

However, the union said the beaver specialist’s last season was 2015, when he blew up 813 beaver dams. The union claims Omnitrax laid him off for the 2016 season; the company has refused to comment.

Arctic Gateway reached out to the former worker on Sept. 17, two days after the derailment, and asked him to resume those duties.

Earlier this week, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he’d look into whether the federal government needs stricter regulations on beaver-risk mitigation, or if companies do a sufficient job controlling for such risks.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

 

Dylan Robertson

Dylan Robertson
Parliamentary bureau chief

In Ottawa, Dylan enjoys snooping through freedom-of-information requests and asking politicians: "What about Manitoba?"

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