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Churchill to be without rail service for several months


Over the past two years the community of Churchill and the Hudson Bay Rail line have not had the best relationship, and this summer the northern community will be left to fend for itself as a result of damages to the line.
Widespread damages as a result of severe overland flooding that covered portions of the rail line in as much as six feet of water have left the rail line inoperable until winter according to a statement from owner OmniTrax, a situation that not only ensures the grain shipment season to the northern port won’t occur for a second straight year but also that rail service of any kind will not reach Churchill, a situation that will result in exceedingly high costs to import goods, foods and services as well as likely putting a significant dent in one of Churchill’s largest economic movers; tourism.
In the wake of the announcement the province issued a brief statement noting the provinces Emergency Measures Organization has a team in place to co-ordinate provincial support however what that support was or could be wasn’t detailed. It was noted however that the province has been in discussions with community leaders in Churchill, including Mayor Michael Spence.
In the wake of the closure Calm Air will be providing freight service into the community twice a week out of Thompson. Calm Air has also scheduled additional flights into Churchill for tourists who would be coming into the town. One of the main tourist attractions -beluga whales- is set for its peak season shortly.
Last year a lack of grain contracts led to a cancellation of the grain shipment season, the first time since World War II, a move that led to approximately 80 layoffs in Churchill, about 10 per cent of the total population of the town. Freight shipments into Churchill were also reduced to once a week at the same time. Now there will not only be no grain for a second year reaching the port but also no freight of any kind, a situation which will lead to rising costs due to air freight being more costly.
Additionally, it is uncertain how many tourists can afford to fly, something which may reduce the number of tourists coming in and impacting the bottom line of many businesses in town.
The Town called a community meeting for Monday night to discuss the rail line closure with residents.

Trent Allen