Newspaper article The Canadian Press

OmniTrax Backs Away from Controversial Plan to Ship Crude Oil through Hudson Bay

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

OmniTrax Backs Away from Controversial Plan to Ship Crude Oil through Hudson Bay

Article excerpt

Rail company suspends plans to ship oil

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WINNIPEG - A rail company is putting the brakes on a controversial plan to haul millions of litres of crude oil across its northern rail line to the port of Churchill on Hudson Bay.

Omnitrax Canada president Merv Tweed said the company, which operates the port in Manitoba, is expecting another record shipping season from grain and other commodities. That has shifted the company's focus away from shipping crude oil, he said.

"We've got a glut of grain on the market," Tweed said Friday. "It looks like another great crop. We increased our volume last year. Our targets are higher this year and they'll be higher again next year. I think it's important that we focus on the grain side of it. That's the direction that we've chosen."

Omnitrax had argued the plan to transport oil across hundreds of kilometres of remote rail line built on permafrost was safe and would help create much-needed jobs in the North. But the proposal was vehemently opposed by aboriginal groups, environmentalists and the government of Manitoba.

Community consultations were "important factors" in the company's decision to back away from the plan, Tweed said.

"We listened to them. I share some of their concerns," he said. "I'm not saying we can't do it. I'm just saying right now, as the president of a company that's looking to grow, we need to focus on the grain market."

The northern rail line has been plagued by derailments that have intermittently forced the suspension of both freight and passenger services. That bolstered the argument among detractors that shipping oil along the rail line was too risky to the environment and the safety of those who live in the region.

The most recent figures from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada show there were 63 accidents on the Hudson Bay rail line between 2003 and 2012. …

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