October 20, 2017 3:20 pm

Manitoba businesses and First Nation to build ice road to Churchill

A Winnipeg-based company is planning to build an ice road as an alternative supply route to Churchill since rail lines remain damaged.

Omnitrax / Supplied

A trucking company, Churchill-based business and First Nation have collaborated to create an alternate supply route to the isolated northern Manitoba port city.

Supplies have had to be flown in to Churchill at significant cost since its main access, the Omnitrax rail line, was badly damaged by flooding this spring.

RELATED: Leaders in Churchill worried businesses won’t survive rail closure

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Polar Industries Ltd., which has its headquarters in Winnipeg and is best known for its portrayal in the Ice Road Truckers TV series, joined forces with the Fox Lake Cree Nation and Remote Area Services from Churchill to develop a way to get much needed supplies to the area.

The group will establish a cat train operation from Gillam to Churchill, covering 300 kilometres overland and construct an ice road expected to be ready for January 2018.

Polar Industries president Mark Kohaykewych has said the company is excited to help the people of Churchill.

“This is a risky venture that has not been done before but the people of Churchill need supplies since the rail line stopped operation.”

Kohaykewych added that the winter months are a critical time of need for the community.

“This effort is to provide much needed goods and supplies to the community in the short term,” said Chief Walter Spence of Fox Lake Cree Nation in a statement released Friday.

The group began looking into alternate ways to get supplies into Churchill this spring when the rail line shut down, in the event that rail service could not be restored.

READ MORE: Federal government issues ultimatum over broken rail line to Churchill

The federal government and Omnitrax continue to wrangle over whose responsibility it is to pay for the repairs.

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