CN hopper car investment draws industry praise

The new units CN plans to buy will be 55-foot jumbo hoppers

Canadian National Railway has announced plans to acquire 1,000 new grain hopper cars over the next two years.

“This substantial investment in higher capacity payload hopper cars, with up to 10 percent more capacity than the older generation, demonstrates our commitment to safely, efficiently and reliably moving the steadily increasing prairie grain crop for our customers,” said JJ Ruest, interim president and chief executive officer of CN.

Ruest said this the announcement this week that the federal government had passed it’s long awaited legislation on transportation reform, the company could made long-term investments and upgrade its facilities.

CN’s western Canadian grain car fleet consists of 12,000 cars, including customer-owned units and cars that are owned or leased by CN.

The new units CN plans to buy will be 55-foot jumbo hoppers with 5,431 cubic feet of capacity.

The new hoppers will allow CN to phase out older, lower-capacity cars from the CN-owned and leased fleet, which typically have a lifespan of more than 30 years.

The cars will be built by National Steel Car Ltd. at the company’s Hamilton plant.

Gregory J. Aziz, chair and chief executive officer of National Steel Car Ltd., said construction of the new cars will create the equivalent of more than 300 new full-time jobs and will boost National Steel car’s workforce by more than 550 people.

News of CN’s plan was welcomed by politicians and grain company executives.

“Canada’s grain hopper cars are rolling toward the end of their lives,” said Kyle Jeworski, president and chief executive officer of Viterra.

“Over the last several years, Viterra has made significant, targeted investments in its country grain elevator network and we welcome this major investment and commitment by CN to get prairie grain to world markets.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said he was pleased to hear CN was taking the opportunity to upgrade under the positive conditions brought in by Ottawa’s new Transportation Modernization Act.

“This decision will help grow the agricultural sector by ensuring farmers are able to reliably get their products to market.”

Earlier this year, CN announced plans to spend $3.4 billion on new trade-enabling infrastructure.

Capital projects in the plan include construction of $400 million worth of new track and yard capacity to more efficiently handle increased traffic across CN’s West Coast to Chicago corridor.

CN also bought 200 new GE locomotives, the first 60 of which are expected to come into operation in June.

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