Freight services back between Churchill and Thompson, Man.

A year and a half after its rail services were suspended due to flooding, freight services are up and running to Churchill, Man.

First freight shipment expected in Churchill by end of the week: Mayor Mike Spence

Hudson Bay Railway locomotives came up the repaired track to Churchill on Oct. 31. (Cameron MacIntosh/CBC)

After a year and a half of waiting, Churchill, Man., is expecting a freight shipment to arrive by the end of the week. 

Churchill Mayor Mike Spence confirmed freight service is operational from Thompson, Man., to Churchill, about 1,000 kilometres north of Winnipeg. The service has been suspended since severe flooding washed out portions of the Hudson Bay Railway in May 2017, severing the town's only land-link and sending cost of living in the area soaring.

"Bottom line, this is great news," Spence said Monday.

"We've got community members and businesses that have … vehicles and other goods that have been stuck, whether it be in Thompson or other southern communities, that have been sitting there since May of last year."

The announcement comes less than a month after trains rolled into Churchill for the first time since the flooding, which washed out portions of the roughly 400-kilometre track in 20 different places.

Without rail services, the town of roughly 900 people on the Manitoba shore of Hudson Bay was a fly-in only community for approximately a year and a half, driving up living expenses, food costs and the price of gasoline.

"It's been a tough go," Spence said. "We continue to pay high prices for fuel and certain goods. But we're working towards, you know, getting the line back up and running, and services like the Via train passenger service."

A map shows how rail service connects much of northern Manitoba. (CBC)

The town posted the announcement on Twitter and Facebook on behalf of Arctic Gateway Group, the public-private partnership that took over the the Hudson Bay Railway and the Port of Churchill from former owner Omnitrax following a deal in late August.

"It's an important milestone," Spence said.

Arctic Gateway Group is a coalition of local rail-line communities, area First Nations, Saskatchewan grain and pulse trader AGT Food and Ingredients and Toronto holding company Fairfax Financial. 

After a $117-million federal commitment to help resurrect the rail line and port, Arctic Gateway began repairs. On Nov. 1, CEO Murad Al-Katib told media the work was "substantially complete."

The first train on the repaired track arrived in town on Oct. 31, with expectations to work toward freight and passenger service later in the year and heavier loads beginning in the spring.

"Once [passenger service] gets into play, it's going to even be greater," Spence said. "Our community will be able to get out and see family members in other communities. It means other community members visiting our community."

He said passenger service is expected to be operational by the end of November or early December.

"It shouldn't be long. We'll just keep our fingers crossed and, like I said, it'll be soon," he said.

"It's coming along. But naturally it's not coming quick enough."