Planning begins to move rail lines out of Winnipeg

A working group is set to start as early as next month to plan to move rail lines out of the city of Winnipeg.
View of the rail yards in central Winnipeg from the Arlington Bridge (Brett Purdy/CBC)

A working group is set to start as early as next month to plan to move rail lines out of the city of Winnipeg.

The group, which will include Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National officials, will put together a detailed study to submit to federal officials, as is required under federal transport laws.

A couple of the shorter lines, such as one in River Heights, will have a shorter timeline, a provincial government official said.

Ultimately the plan is to work towards moving CP's massive yards out of central Winnipeg. Those yards, just north of Higgins Avenue, have been the subject of relocation talks for many years.

A working group, which will include CP and CN officials, will put together a detailed study of moving rail lines out of Winnipeg. (CBC)
A possible new location is CentrePort, northwest of Winnipeg's James Richardson International Airport, an 8,000-hectare inland distribution and warehousing depot that links air, ground and rail transport.

However, that option is still just speculation. No firm discussions have taken place, according to CentrePort spokeswoman Riva Harrison.

CentrePort is building what is known as a common-use rail facility, to allow for multiple rail lines (CN, CP, BNSF) to serve businesses in the area, but "our project is a stand-alone, separate initiative that is about increasing rail-serviced industrial space and attracting new companies to the CentrePort area," Harrison said.

"It is not connected to the broader conversation/study around rail relocation."

A line that 'stigmatizes'

Gunn's Bakery owner Arthur Gunn puts out some baked goods at his Selkirk Avenue bakery Monday. (CBC)
Gunn's Bakery has been operating in the North End since 1937. Arthur Gunn, the owner of the Selkirk Avenue bakery, said he thinks the plan to move the rail yards is a good idea that's been a long time coming.

"The rail yards have always been a demarcation between north and south — it's always stigmatized the people who have lived in the North End, the north side of the tracks," Gunn said. "It's always made them feel like the poor cousins of whatever else goes on on the other side of the tracks."

Gunn added that if the rail yards were no longer taking up so much space in the core of the city, all that land could be converted into housing, parks and restaurants. That, he said, would provide services to residents that they currently may not have access to and could eradicate some of the differences between who lives on either side of the tracks.

"Once the tracks are gone, it's like the whole thing is level, there's no separation."

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