CN announces port infrastructure project

Canada’s largest railway company will twin a four-kilometre section of track at the Port of Vancouver, a move that will address rail congestion issues, reduce container dwell times and improve the flow of freight traffic at Canada’s largest marine port.

Canadian National Railway announced Feb. 14 that it has reached an agreement with the government of Canada and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to “upgrade key infrastructure (and) increase capacity on a critical segment of trade infrastructure in the Greater Vancouver area.”

The project, which will receive federal funding through the National Trade Corridors Fund, consists of double-tracking a section of rail that links expanding import and export terminals on the south shore of the Burrard Inlet to the national rail network.

In a Feb. 14 news release, CN said the project will create more rail capacity, allow for a better flow of rail traffic in and out of the port and improve efficiencies throughout the supply chain.

Costs and timelines for completion of the project were not specified.

“We are pleased to participate in this historic infrastructure project,” said JJ Ruest, CN’s president and chief executive officer.

“The Port of Vancouver is the busiest global trade export gateway of Canada and we must make the most of the existing limited assets,” he added.

Ruest said the project will signal to international trade partners that Canada takes “trade and its importance to the Canadian economy very seriously.”

Recent rail congestion at the Port of Vancouver was the subject of an investigation launched last month by the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The investigation was launched after some shipper groups raised concerns about the use of freight embargoes and permits aimed at limiting the movement of certain commodities in the Vancouver area and reducing congestion at some points in the rail network.

The nation’s two largest railways issued 15 embargoes in late 2018 and early 2019, affecting movements of numerous commodities including grain, pulse crops, oilseeds, oilseed co-products and pulp products.

During oral hearings held last month in Vancouver, a CTA panel heard that operational delays at some container-loading facilities slowed the movement of containerized goods, adding congestion to other parts of the Vancouver-area rail network.

Marine transportation experts say the Port of Vancouver has reached a critical stage where infrastructure improvements and capacity expansion projects are needed.

In recent weeks, high cargo volumes at the country’s largest marine port have pushed terminal-use levels and container dwell times to unusually high levels.

Robin Silvester, president of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, said the recently announced rail twinning project is one of several projects needed to accommodate rising export volumes and growing Canadian demand for import goods from Asia.

“By contributing to new road and rail infrastructure beyond the port, we can help ease the impacts of growing trade on local communities while fulfilling our federal mandate to facilitate Canada’s trade objectives.”

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