For HBRY, Port of Churchill, a $C60MM Investment

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
The 627-mile HBRY that connects with CN in The Pas, running north through Manitoba to the Hudson Bay at the Port of Churchill. (Screen Grab from a Arctic Gateway Group Video)

The 627-mile HBRY that connects with CN in The Pas, running north through Manitoba to the Hudson Bay at the Port of Churchill. (Screen Grab from a Arctic Gateway Group Video)

The governments of Canada and Manitoba on Feb. 23 reported jointly investing up to C$60 million to finish upgrading the Hudson Bay Railway (HBRY) and to start redeveloping the Port of Churchill.

The funding will go to the Arctic Gateway Group, a partnership of 41 First Nation and Bayline communities in Manitoba that owns and operates the 627-mile HBRY, which connects with CN in The Pas, running north through Manitoba to the Hudson Bay at the Port of Churchill (see map below). The group also owns the Port of Churchill and Marine Tank Farm.

HBRY Map (Courtesy of Arctic Gateway Group)

Service to Churchill and remote surrounding communities was cut off in May 2017 by flooding that damaged portions of HBRY. In 2018, the Canadian government committed to the repair and maintenance of HBRY. This saw the creation of the Arctic Gateway Group, and its acquisition of HBRY and Port of Churchill from Denver, Colo.-based OmniTrax, and the Marine Tank Farm.

According to the governments of Canada and Manitoba, the new investment builds on their previous commitments to restore rail service to Churchill and surrounding communities. HBRY, they said, is the “backbone” of the region, serving remote and Indigenous communities, and linking the Port of Churchill as the only deep-water Arctic port connected to the North American surface transportation network. The port is positioned to import and export commodities, critical minerals, and natural resource products through the Arctic and to the world, the governments said.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, the Canadian government had “invested upwards of [C]$200 million” in railroad upgrades before the Feb. 23, 2024, funding announcement; the Canadian government and the province invested some $133 million in 2022 to ensure the railroad remained operational.

Over the past two construction seasons, repair and maintenance work on HBRY replaced more than 8.9% (166,000) of rail ties, resurfaced 2 million feet of track, upgraded and repaired more than 10 bridges, and installed fresh ballast on 23% of the track between The Pas and Churchill, according to the governments of Canada and Manitoba.

Since 2021, the Arctic Gateway Group has seen a 250% increase in re-supply exports through the Port of Churchill that the governments of Canada and Manitoba said is enabling it to offer twice-weekly freight service starting this spring. Further strategic partnerships and important relationships with the Kivalliq region of Nunavut continue to advance, they noted. In 2023 the Port of Churchill saw the return of its first cruise ship in decades, and Arctic Gateway Group is said to anticipate additional cruise ships during the 2024 and 2025 seasons. Also, earlier this winter, Arctic Gateway Group announced an agreement with Hudbay Minerals Inc. for the re-establishment of a northern trade critical minerals supply route that will see zinc concentrate shipped out of the port in 2024.

“The Port of Churchill makes Manitoba a maritime province, and both the port and the rail line offer so much potential when it comes to international trade, energy exports and building out the supply chains that create good jobs in Northern Manitoba,” Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew said. “Our team fought to repair the rail line because we understand it is the backbone of the northern economy and a vital connection to food and fuel for the families that live there. We’re proud to partner with the government of Canada to make this important investment.”

“The government partnerships we have established allow us to invest and upgrade the Hudson Bay Railway where the level of service and reliability is now being achieved,” said Churchill Mayor Mike Spence, who serves as Chair of the Arctic Gateway Group Board of Directors. “Additionally, we can turn our attention on expansion and opportunities through re-development of the port of Churchill. As an Indigenous and community-owned company, we recognize the importance of this northern infrastructure corridor and will continue to partner with industry, our strategic partners in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, and governments. This is a significant announcement for our region, for Manitoba and for Canada.”

“Investing in transportation services in northern Manitoba is a priority for our government, and we’re very pleased to be partnering with Indigenous Nations and the federal government to ensure the Hudson Bay Railway remains a safe and reliable transportation route,” said Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Lisa Naylor. “This investment will create jobs, advance our critical mineral strategy, and help us work toward our net-zero targets.”  

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