Railways exceed car requirements

Summertime service CN says it could deliver 6,000 cars per week

Canadian National Railway has surpassed Ottawa’s expectations and is now aiming to move close to 6,000 hopper cars of western Canadian grain per week, according to the company’s president and chief executive officer.

Claude Mongeau said CN hopper car deliveries to western Canadian grain elevators during the month of May averaged 5,500 cars per week and will approach 6,000 cars per week during the summer, barring any unexpected logistical problems in other parts of the supply chain.

In a May 28 news release, Mongeau said car spots in May 2014 were 50 percent higher than the railway’s eight-year historical average and 38 percent higher than the company’s best-May ever.

“Assuming grain elevator companies are capable of consistently unloading this increased volume, these plans should propel us into even greater record territory by the end of the crop-year in early August,” Mongeau said.

“With solid supply chain collaboration, we expect to see a crop carry-over of grain in the range of 18 million tonnes, which would be only about six million tonnes above the average despite a massive 100 year crop.”

Mongeau said the railway has fulfilled a promise made to federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz that CN would move 4,500 carloads of grain per week as soon as extreme winter weather abated and 5,500 cars per week after the Port of Thunder Bay opened for business.

“We have done exactly what we promised, without the need for regulatory intervention,” Mongeau said.

“In fact, the strength of our grain transportation performance is unprecedented. With our rapid rebound since March, and our solid performance last fall before winter took a toll on operations, we are on course to break all records for Canadian grain.”

So far, CN’s grain volumes for the 2013-14 crop year are four percent higher than the company’s previous record and 13 per cent above average performance, he added.

At Canadian Pacific, Canada’s other major railway company, media spokesperson Ed Greenberg painted a similar picture saying grain shipments have increased significantly since early March.

CP has exceeded Ottawa’s mandate demanding that the railway move 5,500 cars of grain per week.

“CP has not released specific carload numbers,” Greenberg said.

“But I can confirm the railway is shipping record Canadian grain volumes, having exceeded the federal mandate by 11 percent over the past eight weeks.”

Improved movement of grain by rail coincides with the passage of Bill C-30, the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act, which became law late last month.

Among other things, the bill will:

  • require railways to provide more information on how and where grain is moved
  • expand railway inter-switching provisions to 160 kilometres from 30 km
  • strengthen the ability of grain shippers to negotiate railway service agreements that include financial penalties against railways
  • extend weekly grain movement targets that require railways to move a minimum tonnage each week or face fines for non-compliance.