Repairs to Churchill rail line will cost $43.5M: Consultant report

Engineering consultants AECOM have concluded that essential repairs to the damaged rail line to Churchill will cost approximately $43.5 million.

Only land link to Churchill, Man., washed out in more than 20 places during flood in May

Repairs to rail line to Churchill face a looming deadline. (Submitted by Omnitrax)

Engineering consultants AECOM have concluded that essential repairs to the damaged rail line to the northern Manitoba town of Churchill will cost approximately $43.5 million.

The firm's report was prepared for the U.S.-based rail company Omnitrax, which owns and operates the line. AECOM's report says there were more than 20 washouts from the late-May flood that swamped portions of a 155-mile (249-kilometre) stretch of the line, and identifies damage in 130 locations.

The report contains a 60-day plan to restore rail service by early November but says that plan is "ambitious," given the remote location and shortness of the remaining construction season.

Availability of contractors and equipment, material and an early freeze-up could hamper repair work.

The report has been shared with the Prime Minister's Office, the Manitoba government, Transport Canada and Emergency Measures Manitoba, as well as other stakeholders.

According to the report, AECOM is preparing contract documents to tender the work by early September.

Mayor frustrated

Churchill Mayor Mike Spence wasn't on the list to receive a copy of the final engineering report on the damaged rail to his town.

He learned about the document through the media.

"We're the last guys on the bus," Spence said. "The endgame for us is the line needs to be repaired."

Spence blasted Omnitrax for offering to give representatives of the town of Churchill a technical briefing Friday, days after the report had been shared with the PMO, the government of Manitoba, Via Rail, Missinippi Rail and various other government departments.

"Not even sure if it's worth going to that," Spence said of the invitation.

He calls the situation "frustrating," but he remains optimistic the line can be repaired by winter.