Repairs to a vital rail link to northern Manitoba begin immediately, the federal government said Friday after a deal to sell the flood-damaged line leading to the remote city of Churchill.
The community of about 1,000 people – Canada's only deep-water Arctic port – has been without land since the railroad flooded in May 2017. The closure drove the costs for fuel and food, which had to be delivered by plane or by ship.
The Churchill railway line and harbor have been purchased by Denver-based Omnitrax Inc. by Arctic Gateway Group Limited Partnership, a public-private partnership with Missinippi Rail Limited Partnership, Fairfax Financial Holdings and AGT Limited Partnership.
Churchill Mayor Mike Spence said the deal means that communities along the line are now equal to the owners of the railroad. The scheme includes the participation of 30 First Nations and 11 other communities in the north of Manitoba and seven Kivalliq communities in the west of Nunavut.
"We will have control in the future and we will work on prosperity," he said. "This is historic, I do not think there is another model in Canada that would fit in this comparison.
"This is what we hoped for and wanted – we are finally there."
Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr thanked residents of the area for their patience.
"I want Canadians living in the north of Manitoba and Nunavut to know that the government of Canada understands the importance of the line for their daily lives," he said in a press release on Friday.
Omnitrax had claimed that it could not afford to repair the numbers. The company estimated that minimum repairs to restore light passenger rail transport would cost between $ 40 million and $ 60 million and would take about 60 days.
Fairfax, a Toronto-based investment company, announced last November that it would work together Missinippi Rail, a group representing northern communities, trying to buy Omnitrax & # 39; s northern assets of Manitoba.
In June, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) ordered the Hudson Bay Railway to begin repairs in Omni Trax after a complaint from the Manitoba opposition. NDP. CTA started a compliance overview in July.
& # 39; Racing against the clock & # 39;
Arctic Gateway will be that coordinating repairs and says that crews have been mobilized to immediately go to work.
"We race against the clock," said Fairfax Financial President Paul Rivett in a release. The new owners strive to make the railway work before the winter.
"Phase 1 of the project will consist of repairing the railway, carrying out safety and rehabilitation upgrades for the port and railway assets." We will start the repairs and make every effort to restore the service quickly and safely. "
In an e-mail statement Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister praised the deal and said there are plans if the line can not be determined before winter.
"We are hopeful that the railway line can be repaired as quickly as possible so that the service can be resumed before it crashes," he said.
"However, we want to reassure the people of Churchill and the surrounding northern communities that we have already made the financial commitments and logistical arrangements necessary to supply propane for the winter."
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 value and other details of the sale have not been released.