Omnitrax has sold the Hudson Bay Railway and Port of Churchill facilities to a Canadian-based ownership group, allowing repairs to begin immediately on the broken rail line.
The Arctic Gateway Group LP, consisting of Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, AGT Food and Ingredients Inc., and Missinippi Rail Limited Partnership, a consortium of First Nations and communities, joined together to make the purchase. The deal closed on Friday, August 31, 2018.
Paul Rivett, president of Fairfax, provided the following statement on behalf of the Buying Group.
“Over the last eight months we have been working diligently with our many partners to come together, develop a business plan and satisfy the principles for successful new ownership of the Hudson Bay Railway and Port of Churchill facilities. The Government of Canada acknowledges the value and importance of our inclusive group and is supportive of our efforts providing a long term support package through Western Diversification and Export Development Canada to acquire the assets and implement Phase One of the project which is to repair the rail line, undertake safety and rehabilitation upgrades to the port and the railway assets to efficiently operate freight and passenger services to the Northern communities and the Port.”
The port and the railway were originally sold to Omnitrax in 1997. Four years after the Canadian Wheat Board dissolved in 2012, the company decided to shutter the port. In the spring of 2017, flooding washed out portions of the railway, knocking out the only land-based transportation link to Churchill. The previous owner, Omnitrax, suggested that it could not afford to make the necessary repairs to the line.
Since then, importing food and fuel by plane has caused local prices to skyrocket, making it difficult for residents to survive in the community. However, relief could soon be in sight with the sale of the railway to the consortium.
“We have commenced repairs by awarding a contract to Cando Rail and Paradox Access Solutions. We are racing against time to attempt to restore services prior to the winter season,” said Rivett.
Should that not occur however, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is assuring residents that there is a plan in place.
“We are hopeful the repair of the rail line can occur as soon as possible so that service can be resumed before freeze-up,” said Pallister. “However, we want to reassure the people of Churchill and the surrounding northern communities that we have already made the financial commitments and logistical arrangements necessary to ensure propane re-supply for the winter.”