MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA — CN plans to add 57 new high horsepower locomotives and new rolling stock to accommodate a western Canadian Grain crop that is expected to rebound from last year’s drought-impacted levels. The additions were announced as part of the company’s 2022-2023 Grain Plan unveiled on July 29.
“The strength of our agriculture sector is critical to Canada’s economy and to feeding the world,” said Tracy Robinson, president and chief executive officer of CN. “Our team at CN is confident that the adjustments we have made to our operations and planning heading into this fall, combined with the investments made with an eye to future economic growth, will enable us to deliver strong results in 2022–23 for Western Canadian agriculture.”
The Grain Plan sets out the specific steps that CN is taking to ensure it can meet the forecast demand from the grain sector in the new crop year. One such step is a focus on greater balance across all rail corridors to reach the upper end of the maximum sustainable supply chain capacity range. To achieve its goal of greater balance, CN said it will need to make better use of the eastern Canadian network, including Thunder Bay when the St. Lawrence Seaway System is open to navigation, and direct rail shipments to St. Lawrence River ports when the Seaway closes for winter.
CN also continues to add new high-capacity grain hopper cars to its fleet as part of ongoing capacity expansion. In 2022, CN is adding 500 new covered hopper cars, and plans call for an additional 500 grain hopper cars to join the fleet in early 2023. An additional 750 covered hoppers are expected to be added in the second half of 2023 and into 2024. The new grain hopper cars can carry up to 15% more grain than less efficient legacy cars, according to CN.
Projected movement of grain and processed grain products via carload on CN over the course of the 2022-23 crop year is projected at 24.5 million tonnes to 27 million tonnes, with grain shipped via container in addition to these volumes, CN said in the report. The forecast, CN noted, is “well above 2021-22 levels given the expected recovery in grain production in Western Canada this fall.”
CN said it will be increasing its active operating crew base in Western Canada and plans to hire more than 500 new additional employees.
The annual Grain Plan is prepared through an extensive consultation process and input from key stakeholders in CN. Specifically, the stakeholders review the company’s performance during the past crop year and assess its ability to move anticipated levels of grain during the upcoming crop year. The Grain Plan also identifies specific steps CN is taking to ensure it has the capacity to move grain safely and efficiently on behalf of farmers, customers and supply chain partners, and to respond to the known and unknown challenges that North American winters bring.