CANADA: The federal government is seeking to restore rail services along the Hudson Bay Railway, which connects Churchill in northern Manitoba with the Canadian National network at Flin Flon Junction, near The Pas.

Following what HBR owner OmniTRAX described in June as ‘catastrophic’ flood damage, trains have been unable to run over the northernmost 250 km of the route between Churchill and Amery, 40 km north of Gillam. OmniTRAX at the time said that the railway would be out of use ‘indefinitely’ to allow the communities it serves to plan ‘alternative means of transport’.

On September 1, Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources, said that OmniTRAX ‘has legal obligations to repair the rail line’, and that the government had ‘formally demanded that the Hudson Bay Railway Company repair the rail line in line with the terms of its 2008 contribution agreement with the government of Canada, which requires the company to operate, maintain and repair the entire Hudson Bay Railway Line in a diligent and timely manner until March 31 2029’.

In 2008, the federal and Manitoba governments had agreed to provide C$40m for track upgrading between The Pas and Churchill, and C$8m on port improvements, while OmniTRAX had committed to spend a further C$20m. The Denver-based short line owning group has told local media that the severe blizzards and flooding of last year amount to force majeure, rendering the 2008 agreement obsolete. The port of Churchill, which is also owned by OmniTRAX, reportedly closed at short notice in August 2016.

The government is ‘willing to explore the possibility of working with a new owner toward the repair of the line’, the natural resources ministry said in a statement.

The Missinippi Rail consortium had previously signed a memorandum of understanding with OmniTRAX for the potential acquisition of the port at Churchill and the railway for a reported C$20m.