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Release - Northern Mayors React to Federal Government Announcing Legal Action Regarding Northern Rail Service - Town of Churchill
Posted Date: 16/11/2017

NORTHERN MAYORS REACT TO FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCING LEGAL ACTION REGARDING NORTHERN RAIL SERVICE

The Town of Churchill is distributing this release on behalf of the Town of The Pas, the City of Thompson and the Town of Churchill.

CHURCHILL, November 14, 2017 – Churchill Mayor Michael Spence along with the Mayors of Thompson and The Pas today announced their reaction to news that the Federal Government is preparing legal action regarding OmniTRAX’s refusal to repair the Hudson Bay Railway and restore essential services to the North.

“With the Federal Government ramping up action on this matter we can now begin planning for the 2018 season,” said Town of Churchill Mayor Michael Spence. “It is vital that the assets be transferred to a stable northern regional ownership group. The Federal Government has committed itself to that process and now is the time to start focusing on a plan to get an early start on spring repairs and future opportunities.”

The rail service disruption impacts Northern Manitoba and the Kivalliq Region of Nunavut. Residents across Manitoba’s North are being affected as they rely on the rail service for health care as well as goods and services. In some instances the rail line is the only mode of affordable transportation. City of Thompson Mayor Dennis Fenske noted that Thompson is already facing significant challenges with the recent OmniTRAX layoffs, impending mining layoffs and a reduction of rail service that threatens fuel shipments.

“We need a rail line operator who is committed to serve the City and our region, including the development of new opportunities,” said Mayor Fenske. “The current owner shut down the local office and cut rail service in half that has led to reduced fuel car shipments. Fuel shipments by truck raises both safety concerns along Highway 6 and a higher cost for the price of fuel.”

Mayor Jim Scott of The Pas noted that with all the job, equipment and service losses across the north it appears that OmniTRAX has already effectively left the region.

“The current rail line owner has refused to talk directly to Northern communities about their plans. We have watched in dismay as local workers are laid off and rail maintenance equipment is shipped south,” Mayor Scott stated. “At one time OmniTRAX had almost 200 workers in Northern Manitoba and now it appears we are down to just the final 8 in The Pas. We need government action now.”

Mayor Spence noted that there is significant amount of work required to get ready for a transfer of ownership, repairing the rail line and preparing for a successful and profitable 2018 shipping season. In the meantime, Northern communities are continuing to face hardships from the ongoing manufactured crisis.

“At this time of need, Northern communities expect and require support from both the federal and provincial government,” said Mayor Spence. “It will now be more than six months before the rail line will be fully operational and during this time our communities are faced with unacceptable extra costs and unnecessary challenges. It is imperative that we continue to work with and receive additional support from Governments to address these ongoing challenges.”

Full Release:
Churchill Press Release - November 14