Thursday, October 28, 2021

No grain via Churchill for two years

There will be no grain exported from elevators at Churchill on James Bay for two years because the railway isn’t able to carry grain cars.

Sheldon Affleck, chief executive officer of the Arctic Gateway Group (AGG), said construction along part of the rail line means grain cars can’t move through.

AGG is owned by 29 Indigenous and a dozen non-Indigenous communities.

The railway runs from The Pas, Manitoba, to Churchill, where there is a deep-water grain terminal.

The current AGG emerged from a consortium that was headed by the Regina-based AGT Food and Ingredients Inc., which acquired the line and the port from Omnitrax when rail service to Churchill was cut for three years due to a number of unrepaired washouts.

Affleck explained AGG decided in April to proceed with an extensive rehabilitation of the rail line that includes laying a honeycomb-type form to aid in stabilizing the track bed that sits on top of muskeg. 

Construction didn’t begin until August after the federal government announced it will provide $40 million for the project, with the work focussing largely on the stretch between Gillam and Churchill. 

Affleck said passenger and freight service have continued, albeit with a number delays due to the construction.

“It would have been very difficult to run grain trains at the same time,” he said.