Service resumes for Churchill-bound passenger trains after washouts shutdown rail line

About a dozen people left Winnipeg Sunday on the first VIA Rail passenger train to make its way to Churchill in 18 months.

The train rolled out of the station shortly before 2 p.m., just under two hours late.

VIA Rail regional manager Michael Woelcke said there was a technical problem and the passenger train had to wait for a train freight to move.

He said another 100 people are expected to board along the route to Churchill, he said.

Despite the delays, people waiting for this day were delighted.

CTV News spoke with a man who used to work at the port in Churchill and decided to take the first train just to celebrate the occasion.

Another man was taking the trip to visit friends.

CTV News also spoke with a woman originally from Churchill, who put a Christmas package on the train for her relatives.

In May 2017, parts of the tracks along the route were washed out due to flooding.

Woelcke said the shutdown had a significant impact on VIA’s operations, for the tourism business in Churchill and for people who rely on going to Thompson for medical appointments and shopping.

Life in Churchill, a town of about 900 people, became expensive.

With the train being the only mode of ground transportation, prices for food and fuel skyrocketed. Some people moved away.

Arctic Gateway Group purchased the Hudson Bay Railway earlier this year and fixed the broken tracks this fall.

The federal government is injecting about $117 million dollars to help with the purchase of the tracks, repairs and continue service.

The train that left Winnipeg on Sunday also has a new look that coincides with service resuming.

Woelcke said VIA Rail partnered with the University of Manitoba to support a research project called Expedition Churchill.

The dining car is glitzed up with iconic images from the region.

The train is set to arrive in Churchill Tuesday morning.