OmniTRAX Inc. has announced that service on the Hudson Bay Railway (HBR) on a section that runs from Amery to Churchill in Manitoba has been suspended indefinitely. The line, closed due to severe flooding and washout conditions, is not expected to resume operations before the winter season. Since May 23, when high water made the track impassable, HBR has been unable to operate to Churchill.
An independent Engineering firm has accessed that the track bed has been washed away in 19 locations and five bridges are visibly damaged. An additional 30 bridges and 600 culverts, structures that allow water to pass under the track, will need to be further assessed for structural integrity.
“The damage is unprecedented and catastrophic,” said Peter Touesnard, chief commercial officer at OmniTRAX. “While the Hudson Bay Railway requires significant seasonal maintenance, the extent of the damage created by flooding this year is by far the worst we have ever seen.”
“The water receded to near normal levels only yesterday, and we hope to have engineers on the ground as soon as possible to conduct a thorough assessment,” continued Touesnard. “It will be several weeks before we have a final report of the damage to the line, but we do not expect to be operational before the winter, and are concerned that the future of the track is in jeopardy.”
Touesnard added, “With the initial assessment, we received from the Engineering consultant today, we made the decision to announce an indefinite service suspension so communities served by the railway can develop long-term plans for the movement of the supplies and resources they need.”
OmniTRAX has notified impacted customers and communities, and it remains in contact with Transport Canada and Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization regarding the condition of the line. The company also has been in regular contact with the Missinippi Rail consortium, who recently signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the potential acquisition of the HBR and other assets, appraising them to the extent of the damage.
HBR transports food, fuel, agricultural products, kraft paper, concentrates and other goods and materials to northern Manitoba.