Flooding cuts off rail service between Gillam and Churchill

Train service in Northern Manitoba is currently suspended between Gillam and Churchill due to high water that has damaged the track between the two communities, leaving some of it still underwater.

OmniTrax Canada, which owns the Hudson Bay Railway between The Pas and Churchill, said on the weekend that it had issued an embargo covering all traffic destined for stations on the Herchmer subdivision north of Gillam and that a train currently in Gillam was going back to Thompson.

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Via Rail, which operates a passenger train service from Winnipeg to Churchill that travels along the Hudson Bay Railway, said in a May 30 travel advisory that train 690 from Thompson to Winnipeg on May 31 had been cancelled and that the next trains to operate would be train 692 June 2 from Gillam to Winnipeg, train 691 June 2 from The Pas to Gillam, train 692 June 4 from Gillam to Winnipeg and train 693 June 4 from Winnipeg to Gillam. Via said it was communicating with people who have reservations on the affected trains and that those who wish to change their date of travel could do so at no cost.

The suspension of train service between Gillam and Churchill has left War Lake First Nation without a land link to travel to other communities.

“Our community has expressed great concern because of having no access to rail transportation due to flooding,” said War Lake First Nation Chief Betsy Kennedy in a Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) news release May 29. “The rail line is vital to having life necessities come in and access to services in other communities. We require and are requesting ongoing support during this time to ensure the needs of our communities are met.”

MKO Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson said environmental conditions have impacted several MKO communities already this spring, including Red Sucker Lake First Nation, which had to evacuate residents May 25 due to a nearby forest fire, and Tataskweyak Cree Nation and York Landing First Nation, which were affected by flooding.

“Our communities have been greatly challenged by these events and thank those who are working with our communities to mitigate the emergency,” she said, thanking first responders, the Red Cross, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, the provincial government and its water bomber response team as well as volunteers and local leadership for their efforts to ensure the safety of MKO First Nations members. “We encourage these efforts to continue and communication is maintained to address issues northern First Nations face. It is incredibly stressful for those who continue to be displaced and have lack of access to transportation that is vital to their health and basic needs.”

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