CANADA: Arctic Gateway Group has bought the 1 300 km Hudson Bay Railway and associated port facilities in Churchill from OmniTRAX, the government announced on August 31. This is expected to allow repairs to the flood-damaged infrastructure to get underway with the aim of restoring train services by the winter.
There are no roads to Churchill, and passenger and freight rail services were suspended after catastrophic flood damage in May 2017. Legal disputes over responsibility for repairing the line and unsuccessful attempts to sell the business followed, with OmniTRAX saying it could not fund the estimated to C$40m to C$60m cost of repairing the infrastructure.
Announcing that a deal had been reached, the government said the Arctic Gateway Group of Missinippi Rail, investor Fairfax Financial Holdings and food company AGT was ‘an historic private, public partnership’ bringing together ‘First Nations and community ownership and support, along with significant private sector leadership and global investment capacity, and short line rail operation and shipping experience’.
‘The restoration of the rail line is important for the people of Churchill and the surrounding communities who depend on it for their food supply and for the export of their grain’, said Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental & Northern Affairs & Internal Trade. ‘I applaud the work of all those involved to resolve this long-standing issue’.
Minister of Innovation, Science & Economic Development Navdeep Bains said the ‘progressive, collaborative approach’ to restoring the line was ‘a redefining moment in our relationships with First Nations and Inuit people in Canada’.
Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said government support for the transaction ‘allows us to stand up alongside our partners with a defensible deal; defensible to our communities in respect of the risk they are taking on; defensible to the people that depend on this rail service as a lifeline; and defensible to the broader public in ensuring a sound commercial foundation accompanies the rejuvenation of these assets’.