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Another train derails in northern Manitoba; passenger service affected

WINNIPEG – Via Rail says another derailment on a troubled northern Manitoba railway line has forced an interruption of passenger service between Thompson and The Pas until further notice.

At least two cars on a Hudson Bay Railway freight train derailed Thursday night about 55 kilometres north of Gillam, said Merv Tweed, president of OmniTrax Canada, which owns the line.

Via spokeswoman Mylene Belanger said she didn’t have any details about the derailment and Hudson Bail Railway officials could not be reached for comment.

“We sent crews out as soon as it happened,” said Tweed. “Again, the challenge we face is even just in communication. The location where it is, we had to move around to find cell service.”

Via said passengers scheduled to travel on the affected routes will be offered alternate transportation, adding that trains will continue to operate between Churchill and Thompson, and The Pas and Winnipeg.

There was a derailment on the same line on June 3, forcing the suspension of passenger trains between Gillam and Churchill until mid-July.

The Manitoba government said at that time that it might be open to providing more public money to Omnitrax in the future, adding any discussions would also have to involve the federal government.

The rail line has a long history of delays and service interruptions due to the remote boggy terrain it covers.

In 2007, the federal and Manitoba governments put up $20 million each under a five-year deal to help Omnitrax with repairs.

Omnitrax, which operates the port of Churchill, agreed to put up $20 million of its own over 10 years, along with another $2 million to $3 million annually on track maintenance.

Omnitrax Canada has said this year’s problems stem from a harsh winter and unusual weather that has caused ground movement.

Omnitrax had intended to conduct test runs of crude oil shipments along the line, but announced Friday that it was backing away from the plan.

The idea had met with strong opposition from environmental groups and others who feared a spill would be disastrous for the environment.

(CJOB, The Canadian Press)