September 8, 2017 5:09 pm

Feds threaten to force Omnitrax to sell damaged Churchill rail line

Pictures of damage to rail tracks heading to Churchill after flooding.

OmniTrax / Submitted

The federal government says if Omnitrax refuses to maintain rail service to Churchill, Man., it will force the company to sell the rail line to a new owner.

The U.S.-based company hasn’t operated its Hudson Bay Rail line between The Pas, Man., and Churchill since May 23, when spring flooding washed out several sections of the 820-km track, cutting off Churchill’s main supply line for food and fuel.

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Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr says the government is upset Omnitrax hasn’t even started to repair the line and noted the company has received federal funding under a 2008 agreement that requires it to maintain and operate the service to Churchill until at least 2029.

READ MORE: Ottawa says Omnitrax contractually obligated to fix Churchill rail line

Carr says if Omnitrax doesn’t fix the line, the government will act quickly to find a new owner and will offer interim funding to help get the rail line running as quickly as possible.

The new owner would have to pay a reasonable price, have support from First Nations along the route and have a viable business plan for operating the line.

RELATED: Justin Trudeau: Feds will use all options to make Omnitrax pay for Churchill rail repairs

Carr has also appointed former Privy Council clerk Wayne Wouters as Canada’s chief negotiator to work with Omnitrax, Manitoba and any potential buyers, noting time for repairs is running out as winter approaches.

© 2017 The Canadian Press

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