APTN National News
The northern Manitoba town of Churchill is urging the provincial and federal governments to assist with the unexpected closure of a vital rail line.
“We are calling on all orders of government to ensure the work to repair and reopen our rail line begins immediately,” said Michael Spence, mayor of Churchill.
In May, severe spring flooding forced the closure of the Hudson Bay Rail Line.
Omnitrax- the company that owns the rail line said there are 19 locations along the track that are washed out or covered in water.
Omnitrax said it expects the rail line to be operational spring 2018.
But, Spence said the community cannot survive a spring deadline.
Churchill relies on the rail line for its tourism industry and to transport food and fuel. Without it they will have to rely on air transportation, which will increase the cost of products.
Spence said the federal and provincial governments should offset the costs of flying in food and materials.
“We’re looking at some subsidies for not only food products, [but also] products for everyday use, building material, construction material, all those things,” he said.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister told reporters Wednesday this isn’t a “quick fix situation.” Adding, an assessment of the damage must be done before the province can provide subsidies.
“We need to get on the ground and see exactly what the damages are,” said Pallister. “This is a tremendous amount of damage that has not yet been fully assessed yet but we know from the air, at least, that we see a lot of damage not just to the line potentially more damage to bridges, culverts and various other works that are necessary to make the safe passage of a train possible.”
Spence said the province estimates it could be four to six weeks before a complete assessment can be done.
“It’s going to be another four weeks. So they need to do that assessment. We’re not satisfied with that,” said Spence. “There needs to be a quicker assessment done and I think both the federal and provincial government need to be a part of that assessment.”
In the meantime, the community has requested Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada add Churchill to the Nutrition North Canada program.