On-Site Magazine

Construction crews race to repair rail line to isolated Churchill, Man. before winter

By David Kennedy   

Financing Infrastructure

CHURCHILL, Man.—After enduring more than a year with its rail link to the rest of Canada severed, the remote town of Churchill, Man. is finally set to be reconnected.

The Arctic Gateway Group said Aug. 31 it had closed a deal to purchase the Hudson Bay Rail Line, along with several of Churchill’s port assets, from U.S.-based Omnitrax Inc.

The agreement ends months of tense negotiations and high-stakes legal wrangling over the fate of the key piece of infrastructure. The isolated rail line was crippled by serious flooding last spring and the American company balked at the cost of repairs, saying the tracks were not commercially viable. When company calls for public funding went unanswered, the port town was left without land access to the rest of Canada, prompting a lawsuit from the federal government.

With a group of buyers finally secured, Ottawa said it is “fully committed” to the restoration of the line. The Arctic Gateway Group, which is made up of AGT Food and Ingredients Inc., Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. and a consortium of First Nations communities, plans to be begin work on repairing the line immediately.


“Phase one of the project will be to repair the rail line, undertake safety and rehabilitation upgrades to the Port and the Railway assets,” Paul Rivett, the group’s director, said in a statement. “We will commence the repairs and do all we can to restore service expeditiously and safely. We are racing against time.”

Construction work is expected to run throughout the fall, with the ultimate goal of reopening the rail line before this winter. Clearing the way for train service to resume will sidestep the exorbitant costs of flying in supplies over the winter months, as well as boost tourism in the town known as the “polar bear capital of the world.”

Rivett said work to restore the rail line will begin immediately.


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