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The new owners of the rail line to Churchill have reached a milestone in efforts to restore rail service to the northern community, although it remains unclear if that will happen before winter.
On Saturday, work crews wrapped up a month-long effort to repair the many washouts on the tracks from Gilliam to Churchill, the Town of Churchill announced on social media Sunday.
Repair crews and hi-rail trucks are expected to arrive in Churchill in the coming days to work on final preparations for the restoration of rail service, the town said.
"Mayor and council would like to congratulate the efforts of specialized work crews assembled by the Arctic Gateway Group that have been working every day to undertake rail line repairs south of Churchill," the town's statement reads.
It remains unclear if restoring rail service to the northern community can be restored before winter.
On Thursday, Arctic Gateway, the new owners of the rail line, warned the company might be unable to restore service until spring, due to recent snowfall and last month’s deadly derailment.
On Sept. 15, a derailment occurred near Ponton and closed down a section of the line, west of Gillam. A 38-year-old worker was killed. Arctic Gateway has suggested the derailment could complicate efforts to open the tracks to Churchill before winter.
Arctic Gateway – which is composed of Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, AGT Food and Ingredients Inc., and First Nations consortium Missinippi Rail Limited Partnership – took control of the Hudson Bay Railway on Aug. 31.
In Thursday’s written statement, Arctic Gateway spokesman Murad Al-Katib said that while crews continue to work despite snowfall, "it remains possible that this work cannot be completed prior to the onset of winter."
He went on to say that even after workers fix all rail washouts, they will still need to transport equipment north to test the line’s strength before rail service is restored.
"The dedicated work by experts, in difficult working conditions, has been very impressive... Safety remains priority No. 1 as rail restoration efforts continue," the town’s Sunday statement said.
If the line can't be opened, Churchill will be endure a second winter without rail service. The tracks closed in May 2017 after flooding caused more than a dozen washouts.
Churchill Mayor Michael Spence and Arctic Gateway did not respond to requests for comment.
This article first appeared on www.winnipegfreepress.com
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