CN apologizes again for grain backlog, vows to get things moving

By Everything GP (Curtis Galbraith)
April 11, 2018 - 1:41pm

CN Rail is again apologizing to farmers in Alberta's Peace region for not getting grain to market this winter.
Executive Vice President Sean Finn says the company has not cleared the backlog in this area yet but is working on it.
"We've increased capacity to make sure we that get to it, so we've done three very concrete things. We've hired almost 1000 new employees, we'll have hired 1000 by the end of June of this year, we're almost at 600 already. We have gone out and leased locomotives. We ordered 200 new locomotives. We won't have them for six months to a year, so we've leased  temporary locomotives and finally, we're going to invest capital in the Edmonton to Winnipeg corridor."
Finn says the company is spending $250-million to improve that rail corridor. He says CN believes it is better to upgrade existing lines than to re-open ones that have been closed for a long time.
Finn also thinks they will be able to move grain more quickly because the weather is warmer.
"So, we fully expect to catch up and we're going to see a large movement of grain in the coming weeks. Normally in the winter period, when it's really cold, we'd spot 4000 grain cars a week. Now, in the last four or five weeks, we've spotted over 5500 cars a week, so it just shows you we're catching up and we're going to get to those elevators that haven't had that service for a little while to make sure we get that grain moving."  
He does not think moving more oil by pipeline would help with the grain backlog because hauling crude makes up just one percent of CN's revenues.
"When people see our trains go by, they see tanker cars, they automatically conclude it's crude. Don't forget, some of it's diesel, which is going to the farm. Some of it is canola oil, which is going to market, so it's not just crude in those tank cars. Our portion of the crude movement is pretty low, but there's no doubt that the pipelines are required, because the railways cannot move the capacity that's required to move in those pipelines."
Finn says CN believes the new Transportation Modernization Act should be passed as quickly as possible. He says there are provisions to make CN more accountable as a company and what he terms "more robust" information sharing between the company, grain handlers, and producer groups with Transport Canada included in the bill. 

Market Watch - April 6, 2018

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