The railway is investing $250 million this year into Western Canadian infrastructure
By Diego Flammini
One of Canada’s national railways is apologizing to farmers for the struggles they’ve faced trying to transport their grain.
Canadian National (CN) only supplied 17 per cent of ordered hopper cars and failed to fulfill 3,419 orders on time, according a recent Ag Transport Coalition report. So the railway is focusing on helping farmers meet their contract deadlines.
“We apologize for not meeting the expectations of our grain customers, nor our own high standards,” JJ Ruest, interim president and CEO of CN, said in a statement today. “The entire CN team has a sense of urgency and is fully focused on getting it right for farmers and our grain customers, regaining the confidence of Canadian businesses and protecting Canada’s reputation as a stable trade partner in world markets.”
CN has committed to taking immediate action to repair the situation across the Prairies, including investing $250 million this year to build new track and yard capacity, and leasing 130 locomotives to help move more grain.
Photo: Canadian National Railway
The government is also putting pressure on CN, along with Canadian Pacific (CP) to fix the situation in a timely manner.
The federal transport and agriculture ministers sent a joint letter yesterday to CN and CP, mandating that the railways publish how they will clear the backlog and how they will offer fluid service thereafter.
Minister of Transport Marc Garneau and Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay want those ideas published to CN and CP’s respective websites by March 15.
“While the situation is not as dire as it was in 2013-2014, railway performance has been disappointing,” the letter states.
Producers feel passing a key piece of legislation could help clear some of the backlog.
An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and Other Acts, commonly referred to as Bill C-49, contains measures that would see railways face penalties if they fail to provide the proper service.
“Farmers are already feeling the pain of plummeting rail service and need the Senate and House to pass Bill C-49 as soon as possible,” the Canadian Federation of Agriculture said in a statement on March 1.
The bill has passed its second reading in the Senate and still needs to pass a third reading and receive Royal Assent from the Governor General to become law.