Canada’s Prairie farmers can be excused if they’re shedding a few tears. The railway link across northern Manitoba, one of Canada’s Western provinces, to the tiny port of Churchill (pop. 900) on Hudson Bay has been sliced and diced by recent floods. The damage reportedly is so extensive that the operator, Omnitrax Canada, says the line may be out of service for months.
The outage is particular poignant for the farmers. Not only did they agitate for years for the line to be built, but they saw it as a way of freeing themselves from the high cost of shipping their grain to the Lake Superior port of Thunder Bay, Ont., Canada’s main outlet for Prairie wheat. And even though the line to Churchill has never lived up to its promise, it was, for Western Canadians, still their very own line.
But Omitrax may be exaggerating the seriousness of the washouts. A Winnipeg Free Press story on June 20 (http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/photos-from-the-ground-tell-different-story-about-hudson-bay-railway-conditions-429783063.html) suggests that because flood waters have receded, getting the line back on track may take less time than the company originally said it would.
Not only does Omitrax want to unload the line, but it has been trying to do so for more than a year to a consortium of First Nations.
“A deal in principle has been reached,” the Free Press reports. “But the First Nations have stated publicly they need support from the federal and provincial governments to complete the purchase.”