Railways break grain movement records

Canada’s two national railways are reporting strong grain movement this year, claiming October was a record-breaking month.

In news releases published earlier this month, Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National Railway said they have been highly successful in delivering producers’ grain to market.

CN said it moved 2.8 million tonnes of grain and processed grain products in October, beating its previous record of 2.7 million tonnes set in April.

During that same month, CP moved 2.66 million tonnes, a figure the company says is the most it has ever moved in any month in its history.

The last time the company set a monthly record was in April 2019, when it shipped 2.64 million tonnes.

CP attributed the higher numbers to its new high-capacity grain hopper cars, which allow the company to ship more grain per rail car.

“This record is a testament to ongoing collaboration with our customers and innovation within the grain supply chain,” Joan Hardy, CP’s vice-president of sales and marketing with grain and fertilizers, said in the news release.

“I thank our customers for their efforts, and the hard-working men and women of CP for delivering safely and efficiently for shippers, farmers and the broader economy,” she said.

CN said it pulled through with lots of deliveries despite harvest delays, market access restrictions and bad weather.

It said it has moved 6.7 million tonnes this year, adding that rail capacity has been significantly under-used.

“We are all part of the same supply chain, and as a railway, CN fully understands the impacts that weather can have on the end-to-end supply chain,” Allen Foster, the company’s vice-president of bulk, said in the news release.

“Investment at every step of the supply chain — from producers and grain companies to CN’s investment in new hopper cars, increased network capacity and a more modern locomotive fleet — all played a role in delivering a record month,” he said.

Quorum Corp said in its Nov. 5 grain monitoring program report that space in primary elevators is good and country deliveries are at about the same level as last year.

It said western Canadian shipments from port terminal elevators are four percent higher year-to-date than the same period last year and two percent higher than the three-year average.

As well, Quorum said temperatures across the Prairies are expected to cool to below -10 C in the coming weeks and that railways aren’t yet expected to implement their winter operating plans.

CP said it has carried 1.2 million tonnes of additional grain compared to last year.

The company has installed more than 1,900 new high-capacity hopper cars and plans on adding another 1,400 cars by the end of 2020.

It has also committed to invest $500 million in 5,900 new hopper cars, which allow shippers to load up to 10 percent more grain by weight and 15 percent more by volume compared to the older cars.

CP has implemented what it calls a high efficiency product train model, which along with customer investment at terminals, significantly expands new capacity for the supply chain, the company said.

More than 20 percent of CP’s Canadian grain volume will move under this new model by the end of this crop year.

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