CN reports grain movement back at pre-strike pace

Canadian National Railway’s grain shipping is back to its pre-strike pace, the railway says.

“By the second week of December (week 19), CN returned to shipping at peak levels, as well as taking on all customer hopper demand for the second and third weeks of December,” Montreal-based CN said in a release Thursday.

“Despite a slow start to the crop year due to adverse weather, CN spotted over 6,800 hopper cars per week during the first two weeks of November (weeks 14 and 15 of the crop year). This was the high point of the crop year. The eight-day strike prevented CN from accepting any new orders during week 17 as CN was only operating at approximately 10 per cent of overall capacity.”

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Due to the strike in week 16 (Nov. 17-23) CN delivered 37 per cent of the 5,409 grain cars on time to companies participating in data collection done by the Ag Transport Coalition.

Many grain companies have seen CN’s shipping program restored to pre-strike levels, Western Grain Elevator Association (WGEA) executive director Wade Sobkowich said in an email.

“That does not mean it has caught up, nor have we recovered from the eight days we lost,” he wrote.

In an email CN spokesman Jonathan Abecassis said CN is encouraging customers to place more orders for grain movement to fully utilize available capacity.

CN set two grain shipping records earlier this fall. In October CN moved a record 2.8 million tonnes of grain. The previous record was 2.7 million tonnes set in April 2019.

In week 11 (Oct. 13-19) of the current crop year CN moved a record 685,187 tonnes of grain from Prairie country elevators to export terminals. The previous weekly record was 675,075 tonnes, moved in week 10 of the 2017-18 crop year.

CN’s Calgary rival Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) on Dec. 2 also booked an all-time record monthly Canadian grain handle of 2.74 million tonnes in November, up from its previous all-time record of 2.66 million, set in October.

CP’s next-to-previous such record, 2,62 million tonnes, was set in April this year.

— Allan Dawson is a reporter for the Manitoba Co-operator at Miami, Man.

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