The Challenges to Return Rail Service and seeing the Great White Bear!
By Norm Richards
I posted the bears picture with hopes and dreams behind it that the Polar Bear will continue to live a long life while hunting for natural food out on the winter ice. It's been the experience for some time that they dig around in the Churchill, Manitoba refuse grounds for discarded human food to satisfy their hunger during the warm season. Knowledge of this, draws tourists to see them although steps are taken to discourage their bad habits. Nevertheless, they have these large swamp buggies high off the ground to serve as an observation deck at Churchill out on the tundra. People can be safe and take pictures, often up close.
Since the rail service is down with broken rails washed out in the spring last year and not yet repaired, it will be awhile before those friendly tourists can return. The Hudson Bay Railway company owned by Winnipeg based and American owned OmniTRAX cannot travel further north than Thompson, Manitoba. Since the rail has remained broken, they don't even go there. The home base for the northern rail service at The Pas is completely dormant. No trains moving anywhere. No reason. Nothing is being shipped. Churchill residents currently get their provisions sent in by plane but that's expensive and there is no telling how long it will take for rail service to return.
The federal government sold the Canadian National Railway line to an American company in 1997 when OmniTrax was formed. Seems we've come to regret that ever happening. Since grain shipments stopped in 2015, no replacement for it has been found. OmniTrax resisted a quick repair opting to wait for a sale or last minute commitment from the government to help. No such thing is possible as far as the government is concerned since OmniTrax is seen to have breached the original agreement of sale by not quickly repairing the line. The government has gone to court to force a judgement on OmniTrax. The case has not been heard yet. The case goes to court on February 22, 2018 where OmniTrax plans to petition the court to throw out the suit on grounds we've yet to hear.
Hard to know who to cheer for at this point. Somebody's got to fix the broken rail line. Then maybe a sale can take place. It won't be the end of any number of future challenges. One, the rail line needs further improvement and not just a simple fix. Two, whoever ends up owning the Hudson Bay Railway company, has to sell somebody on delivery and shipping commodities and bulk content through the seasonal Port of Churchill active since the late 1920's. That's what will make the whole thing viable. It will take energy, commitments and major investment. Who is going to believe it's possible? It's a big challenge it seems the Americans have failed to do. The port and grain shipments could return and why not? Who's going to take the bull by the horns and make things work?