Omnitrax suspends - reopens Hudson Bay Railway operations after locomotive fire, The Pas mayor says
'Due to security concerns, operations are suspended,' Churchill Facebook page says
Omnitrax shut down then reopened operations on the rail line from The Pas to Churchill after a fire considered "suspicious in nature" by RCMP damaged a locomotive in The Pas on Monday evening, according to community officials.
Firefighters were called to the Hudson Bay Rail yard around 8:30 p.m. to fight the blaze in the boarded-up train engine, which had been dormant for about three years, police said.
"All I know is there was a fire, it's under investigation and until that investigation is complete, Omnitrax has shut down the entire rail line," The Pas Mayor Jim Scott said, adding no one was injured in the fire.
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"Advised by Omnitrax official that due to security concerns, operations are suspended while working on an investigation. Updates to follow," the Town of Churchill Facebook page says.
"Frustrating and challenging," says Churchill mayor
Churchill mayor Mike Spence got the news of the suspension of rail service this morning from the OmniTrax vice president of port operations. Then the rail company executive was in touch with the Churchill mayor later in the afternoon to say service would resume with a scheduled shipment on Wednesday.
"That is the train that brings in our groceries and resupply goods to the north - lumber, vehicles. All of that," Spence said.
Many of the communities along the railway, including Churchill, have no road access and rely on trains to bring in freight and tourists.
Spence says the roller coaster of emotions for his community has to stop.
"It's troublesome, it's disheartening. It becomes a little too much to bear living in Churchill, that's for sure with the challenges we face...we are at a boiling point now. It's not healthy," Spence said.
Spence and other communities along the line from The Pas to Churchill told CBC News on Monday they want to negotiate with OmniTrax to take over operation of the line and the port.
A request for information has been sent to Omnitrax.
The Hudson Bay Rail yard is owned operated by the Denver-based transportation company, which has drawn the ire of northern Manitoba residents by closing the Port of Churchill and cutting railway freight service to the northern town in half.
"At the end of the day, I think we are going to find out a couple of kids made a stupid decision and lit a locomotive on fire," Scott said. "All of this happened because of a little kid's decision."
A spokesperson for federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, says his department is continuing to work on a solution for the rail line and port. The spokesperson adds they are looking at options to intervene if OmniTrax suspends rail service.