Omnitrax says temporary fix to Manitoba rail line doable but company wont

The company that owns a broken rail line to Churchill says it could restore limited service to the northern Manitoba community within 30 days but it is not willing to pay the bill.Omnitrax Canada president Merv Tweed said a proposal made to Transport Canada earlier this month calls for temporary repairs to 25 sections of the line that were washed out by flooding last spring.“Basically it would put the line into service on a very limited basis. It wouldn’t be available to passenger traffic,” Tweed said Tuesday in an interview.“We would be able to move very light cars up there to move some product and some goods.”The cost of the temporary fix to provide Churchill with supplies over the winter would be up to $10 million, says a study by engineering firm AECOM.AECOM’s report notes that the Hudson Bay rail line would still require another $43.5 million of work next year to restore it to full, safe and operable conditions.Tweed said Omnitrax has been waiting for a response from the federal government since Oct. 6. He said the company has made it clear since the summer that any repairs to the line are up to Ottawa.Transportation Minister Marc Garneau said Tuesday that the cost of any repairs remain Omnitrax’s responsibility, although the government would be open to helping a new owner fix the line.Garneau reiterated an ultimatum made to the Denver-based company last Friday that it has 30 days to fix the rail line and restore service or face legal action.“They are responsible in a case like this to repair the line and to resume operations. We expect them to do it. That is why I sent them a notice of default. If they do not do that, we will take legal action,” Garneau said in Ottawa.“There is a possibility of financial help, but not to Omnitrax, because they have been a partner in bad faith and we would be looking towards some other partner to re-establish the line.”Garneau did not say who that other partner might be.Omnitrax has been in talks to sell the rail line to a consortium of northern Manitoba communities and businesses.Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, who represents Manitoba in the federal cabinet, said Friday that he was hopeful a deal may come soon.Damage to the 250-kilometre rail link has forced goods and people to be flown into Churchill at a high cost.Known for its polar bears and beluga whales, the community has also suffered a big drop in tourism.— With files from Terry Pedwell in Ottawa

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