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Rail line battle is not done yet


The battle over the repairs to the rail line to Churchill is continuing to go to court.
Last week a Canadian Transportation Agency regulator ruled Omnitrax is on the hook for repairs to the rail line, stating the Denver-based owners failed to follow a process to release obligations over maintenance of the rail line which would have potentially relieved Omnitrax of those duties.
Omnitrax officially filed their appealed to the ruling Monday.
Under the ruling from the regulator Omnitrax was to begin repairs to the rail line by July 3rd and was to file monthly updates on the work beginning in August. It’s unclear if the appeal will delay when the work will begin.
The rail line was washed out in several locations south of Churchill over a year ago during flooding that occurred in April, 2017. Omnitrax has long held the belief they are not responsible for the repairs, calling the damage outside of their obligation as a force of nature. The provincial and federal governments and the community of Churchill have long opposed that view, stating an agreement signed between Omnitrax and the two levels of government which provided approximately $68-million in funding for upgrades to the line a decade ago. That agreement called on Omnitrax to maintain the rail line.
Complication matters is the fact Omnitrax has also stated the repairs, which have been pegged at costing between $40 million and $60 million are unmanageable for the company and they would not be able to afford them.
Additionally, Omnitrax has been involved in several potential sales of the line and last month announced a potential sale of the line to a group of investors including northern bidders One North and Missinippi Rail, each which contain a number of northern and First Nations communities.
The rail line is the only land link to the community and Churchill has suffered financial and tourism-related hardships as well as increased costs and scarcity of resources for anything from food to fuel due to the lack of an operating rail line.

Trent Allen