July 21, 2017 4:02 pm
Updated: July 28, 2017 2:38 pm

Ottawa says Omnitrax contractually obligated to fix Churchill rail line

Pictures who extensive damage to rail tracks heading to Churchill after flooding.

OmniTrax / Submitted

WINNIPEG – The company that owns the washed out rail line to Churchill, Manitoba is contractually obligated to repair it, according to the office of the federal Minister of Transport.

Omnitrax, the owner of the Hudson Bay Railway, has said they require government help to pay for the repairs that have halted train service.

However, the federal government said a 2008 agreement signed by Omnitrax means the company cannot significantly reduce, discontinue or abandon the line.

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“OmniTrax has an obligation to repair and maintain its line and maintain service to residents, and we expect Omnitrax to meet its obligations” read an email statement from the office of the federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau.

On Friday, the Manitoba government announced it will ship enough propane to Churchill to heat homes through the winter.

The Hudson Bay Railway was washed out in late May, cutting off the only land transportation route into Churchill and surrounding remote, Hudson Bay communities.

One of the biggest concerns since then has been how propane which is used by many homes and business for heat would get to Churchill during the winter.

With the province’s propane shipment there will be enough to heat buildings in Churchill through the winter and possibly until next June, said Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.

“We’re making sure that should the rail line not be fixed by winter we are not leaving the people of Churchill at incredible risk,” he said.

The propane shipment will be transported by sea and will cost about $6 million, said Pallister.

However, the Mayor of Churchill, who has consistently advocated for the rail line to be fixed before winter, slammed the province’s propane plan.

“The provincial plan to ship propane this winter means the province appears to have given up,” read the release.

“Why are they prepared to spend millions of dollars without seriously examining repair options?” it continued.

According to Omnitrax, the owner of the rail line, repairs will cost between $20 million and $60 million.

On Tuesday the company said it could not cover the costs.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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