Churchill residents see light at the end of the tunnel after the railway sales have been announced

Some Churchill residents say they are optimistic that a deal to sell the flood-stricken railway to the northern city of Manitoba could soon restore life to normal.

The federal government announced Friday that repairs to the railroad – the only land link to Churchill, 1,000 kilometers north of Winnipeg – will start immediately, after a deal to sell the line that was out of service because it was damaged by flooding in May 2017.

The Churchill railway line and harbor have been purchased at Denver-based Omnitrax Inc. by Arctic Gateway Group Limited Partnership, a public-private partnership with Mississippi Rail Limited Partnership, Fairfax Financial Holdings and AGT Limited Partnership.

Jenafor Azure, owner of a bed and breakfast in Churchill, says that the loss of the railway has hit the community hard and caused endless headaches.

Even simple things like dog food for her sled dogs have been difficult.

& # 39; Costs associated with the shipment of dog food and straw, you name it, for our community … I mean, you could write a book about what we've been dealing with in the past year, & # 39; she said.

News meets & jubilation mood & # 39;

Evan Roberts worked in Churchill for about three years as a program coordinator for the Churchill Northern Study Center.

The lack of rail services affects almost every aspect of community life, he said, from the shipping costs to the migration of residents.

"It certainly affects us, or affects us, socially, economically, personally, it was hard."

The news that a deal was finally concluded to get the service back, after months of negotiations, was cheerful & # 39; cheered, he said.

"This seems to be the most hope we have had for a long time," he said.

Churchill resident Joe Stover did not agree with that.

"It's such a long time coming," he said Saturday.

"It is not only a relief for myself and my family, but for all my friends and everyone who lives in Churchill and for everyone who depends on Churchill and the railway and the port and such, it is simply overwhelming relief."

Tourism industry hurts

The vital tourist industry in the city, where many trips to see whales and polar bears, has also been severely affected by the lack of rail services.

No land route more than a year, only those who can afford a plane ticket or expensive tour, have been able to make the trek to the community, said Azure.

"I think we lost a lot of tourism dollars in our community, that we worked so hard to build it up," she said.

Now, Azure said she hopes that the return of the service could bring people – and their wallets – back to the northern community.

"And of course, the more people we get in and out of this community, the better, because they spend money," she said.

For Patricia Kandiurin, the city did not feel the same in the summer months without tourists.

She is convinced that this will change as soon as the rail service returns.

"We know that Churchill will flourish again – it will be Canada's destination again," she said.

"This summer should have been overrun with tourists, we had tourists, just not so much.

"But it will be big again."

Arctic Gateway coordinates repairs and says that crews have been mobilized to immediately go to work.

Negotiations for the purchase of Hudson Bay Railway's Manitoba assets, including a railway yard in The Pas and a service station for ship applications in Churchill, as well as the railway and port, have been under way for months.

The agreement concerns the Hudson Bay Rail Company, the Hudson Bay Port Company and the Churchill Marine Tank Farm managed by Omnitrax.

The financial details of the sale have not been released.

With files from Laura Glowacki and the Weekend Morning Show

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