November 14, 2019

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First train rolls into Churchill on eve of prime minister's visit

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Arctic Gateway Group</p><p>A work group makes repairs to the washed out railway to Churchill. The first VIA Rail passenger train is expected to arrive in the town shortly.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Arctic Gateway Group

A work group makes repairs to the washed out railway to Churchill. The first VIA Rail passenger train is expected to arrive in the town shortly.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/10/2018 (378 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/10/2018 (378 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Churchill residents welcomed the first train in a year and a half Wednesday, and are eager to hear the news the prime minister will deliver in the northern town today.

At the Arctic Gateway Group port at 10 a.m., Justin Trudeau will announce the restoration of rail service to Churchill. The first train arrived Wednesday night.

The northern community, located about 1,000 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, has been isolated since May 2017 when parts of the railway were washed out due to flooding en route to Gillam, Man.

Trudeau will unveil $3.8 million in funding for 40 projects geared to supporting tourism and skill training; helping offset the freight costs that stemmed from the rail closure; and opening the door for more investments in Churchill.

Afterward, he’s scheduled to attend a street party celebration with community members, alongside Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr.

It’s unclear exactly when the first VIA Rail passenger train will arrive in Churchill, though sources said it’s expected very shortly.

Since losing access to train service, the town of about 900 people struggled with rising costs of living as items were brought in by ship or air. Tourism also dwindled in the north with no access point for VIA Rail.

On Aug. 31, the Arctic Gateway Group took ownership of the rail line from Denver-based Omnitrax and immediately started making repairs.

Churchill Mayor Mike Spence wasn’t giving interviews ahead of Trudeau’s announcement, but said the community was "buzzing" by email Wednesday.

"This is another important milestone and everyone is excited," Spence said.

During the prime minister’s stopover, Churchill resident Patricia Kandiurin plans to wear a hoodie she emblazoned with the mantra locals have adopted since the railway shutdown: "Know I’m Here."

She’s happy to hear the rail line will be back in operation soon, but wishes it didn’t take so long to get back on track.

"It’s a little bit late, but it’s exciting that he’s acknowledging us," Kandiurin said of Trudeau’s visit. "Better late than never."

"I don’t want to sound rude or anything like that, but we shouldn’t have had to wait this long. I mean, they’re punting money… but it should have happened last year," she added.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick</p><p>Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will make a funding announcement for Churchill in person when he visits the town.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will make a funding announcement for Churchill in person when he visits the town.

Kandiurin said many people have moved away from Churchill in the time since the rail line shut down and she’s not sure whether they’ll return.

Others couldn’t afford to leave by plane and therefore missed weddings, funerals and holidays with loved ones, she said.

Still, the town plans to celebrate the good news, organizing a feast, setting up bonfires and making plenty of Know I’m Here signs.

"To me, (the mantra) means we are here. We’re the citizens of Churchill. The citizens of Churchill are not going anywhere. We’re not going to be quiet until we win what we’re fighting for," Kandiurin said.

"And I guess we won," she added. "We got our rail line back. We got our life line back."

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu

 

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Legislature reporter

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, October 31, 2018 at 9:06 PM CDT: Embeds tweet.

9:19 PM: Updates headline, story.

9:23 PM: Fixes opening of story.

9:25 PM: Fixes typo

November 1, 2018 at 7:34 AM: Duplicate paragraph removed.

10:31 AM: fixes typo

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