Monday, June 12, 2017

Washouts, high water force OmniTRAX to suspend HBR service

Written by 
Flood damage is shown along Hudson Bay Railway during an aerial inspection of the line the week of June 5. Flood damage is shown along Hudson Bay Railway during an aerial inspection of the line the week of June 5.

Severe flooding and washout conditions have caused OminTRAX Inc. to suspend operations June 9 on northern segment of the Hudson Bay Railway (HBR) between Amery and Churchill, Manitoba.

HBR has been unable to operate to Churchill since May 23 when high water made the track impassable. OmniTRAX does not expect to be able to resume operations before the winter season.

A preliminary assessment by an independent engineering firm indicates that the track bed has been washed away in 19 locations. Five bridges are visibly damaged and an additional 30 bridges and 600 culverts 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 [June 8], and we hope to have engineers on the ground as soon as possible to conduct a thorough assessment. 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."

He added, "With the initial assessment, we received from engineering consultant, 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."

HBR is a vital transportation link in northern Manitoba, hauling food, fuel, agricultural products, kraft paper, concentrates and other goods and materials required in the north. VIA Rail, Canada's intercity passenger rail provider, also suspended service due to flooding and says it will resume services between Gillam and Churchill once inspections of the railway have been completed and the track is back in operation.

OmniTRAX notes it is working with customers, communities and the Canadian government regarding the condition of the line and will provide further updates as events warrant.

Get the latest rail news

The inside scoop from RT&S, IRJ and Railway Age on and off the track. Join our email list.