Establishment of two work camps north of Gillam and the installation of reinforced rail bed at a pair of sidings are among the tasks the owner of the Hudson Bay Railway (HBR) has already completed while grain shipments to the Port of Churchill are suspended this year and next.
The temporary halt to grain shipments, previously reported by Glacier FarmMedia, will not affect other freight trains or passenger trains travelling along the railway between The Pas and Churchill.
“Our aim is to fix the tracks permanently and pausing grain shipments until that’s done will ensure that we have a permanent long-term solution that will make HBR safe, sustainable and profitable,” said Arctic Gateway Group CEO Sheldon Affleck in a Nov. 16 press release.
So far, Arctic Gateway Group, which owns the railway and port and is itself owned by a group of 29 Indigenous and 12 non-Indigenous communities, mostly in Northern Manitoba and Nunavut, has established an 18-person work camp at the Limestone Pit north of Gillam and a 24-person work camp on a one-acre geocell-reinforced site at the Herchmer siding, halfway between Gillam and Churchill. 1.6 kilometres of geocell-reinforced rail bed has also been installed at the Thibadeau and O’Day sidings, south and north of Herchmer, respectively.
Geocell is a cellular confinement system used in construction for stabilizing soil and preventing erosion.
Arctic Gateway is planning to use ground-penetrating radar in December to assess the condition of the rail bed between Gillam and Churchill to figure out the most cost-effective way to rebuild each kilometre of track.
The company has also purchased 12 new locomotives, which are receiving technological upgrades and paint jobs, as well as a state-of-the-art geometry test vehicle for biweekly testing of the railway.
“I am proud of what our partners, employees and contractors have accomplished in the short timeframe from mid-August until freeze-up,” Affleck said. “Work will resume in early June 2022 when the rail bed is fully thawed again. We are determined to build a trade corridor to the north that will connect with the world and ensure jobs and a strong economy for Indigenous and other northern communities.”
Arctic Gateway Group received $40 million in federal funding in August for rail line repairs, which began when HBR and the port were purchased from former owner OmniTrax in 2018, but the company says more investment will be required in order to complete repairs.