Manitoba

First passenger train due in Churchill Dec. 4

A year and a half after services on its rail lifeline were suspended, a passenger train is set to arrive in Churchill, Man., next week.

'A long time coming': Churchill Mayor Mike Spence says in Monday news release

Hudson Bay Railway locomotives come up the repaired track to Churchill in October. A VIA Rail passenger train is due to arrive in the town on Dec. 4. (Cameron MacIntosh/CBC)

A year and a half after services on its rail lifeline were suspended, a passenger train is set to arrive in Churchill, Man., next week.

On Monday, the town of roughly 900 people confirmed in a news release a VIA Rail passenger train is scheduled to arrive on Dec. 4.

It will be the first passenger train to pull into town since May 2017, when service on the 400-kilometre Hudson Bay Railway was suspended after severe flooding washed it out in 20 different places. The suspension severed Churchill's only land-link out of town, causing the cost of living to rise steeply.

"The return of VIA Rail service is huge news for our community and has been a long time coming," Churchill Mayor Mike Spence said in a written news release Monday.

"We are all excited to allow our region to get back to normal."

The town's first freight shipment following the flooding arrived on Sunday.

The train is set to depart from Winnipeg at 12:05 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2, before travelling roughly 1,000 kilometres north to arrive in Churchill at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, according to VIA's website.

Connecting family members in time for holidays: mayor

After the flooding, the town 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.

Arctic Gateway Group, a public-private partnership, took over the the Hudson Bay Railway and the Port of Churchill from former owner Omnitrax following a deal in late August. The 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.

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

In the release Monday, Spence gave a nod to VIA's efforts to resume services.

"With the holiday season approaching, it is great news to have passenger service back, connecting family members in our northern communities," he said in the statement.

He said the town is now focused on ensuring investments made in the region will lead to new opportunities for visitors and economic development.

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