CN and CP announce third quarter results

Both of Canada’s major railways announced third quarter results for the period ended September 30, and put in strong performances.

During the quarter, CN’s revenues increased by 14.5 per cent to $3.69 billion. However, operating expenses rose by 19.2 per cent and, as a percentage of revenues increased from 57.2 per cent to 59.5 per cent. Higher expense levels were primarily driven by higher fuel prices, and higher labour and training costs to enable the company to deal with expected increases in volumes. Cash flow from operations increased to $1.56 billion from $1.4 billion, and “free” cash flow, the amount remaining from operating cash flow after subtracting net investments made during the quarter and dividends paid to investors, increased to $508 million from $373 million. However, during the first nine months of the year, “free” cash flow declined to $1.20 billion from $1.44 billion. From Jan 1 to Sept 30, CN spent $1.521 billion repurchasing its own shares (about the same amount as in 2017), and paid $1.0 billion in dividends. As of September 30, the company’s equity stood at $17.6 billion (as compared to $16.7 billion as at December 31, 2017). Total debt increased to $22.6 billion from $21.0 billion (Dec 31, 2017). (more…)

A bumper year for China-Europe rail, but growing demand could derail services

By Sam Whelan, Asia correspondent

It’s been another bumper year, so far, for China-Europe rail freight, but surging volumes are putting pressure on infrastructure and denting transit times. According to China Railway Corporation, 2,497 freight trains ran during the first six months, up 69 per cent year on year, with growth on target to reach 5,000 trains by year-end.

DB Schenker’s Greater China Chief Executive, Christopher Pollard, said the 3PL operated services on all of the 15 regular lines running from China to Europe, the vast majority of which terminate in Germany, via Poland. On average, the trains take 12 days to reach Poland, but 17 days to Germany – “two days slower than the lead time could be at best, due to efficiency issues along the route,” he told The Loadstar. (more…)

Tank car phase out will complicate but not cripple crude by rail shipments

Tank car phase out will complicate but not cripple crude by rail shipments

By Alex Binkley

Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s order to phase out two classes of tank cars used in transporting crude oil and condensates will complicate the petroleum industry’s logistics challenge but not completely disrupt shipments by rail, which are at record levels.

Brad Herald, Vice-President of Western Canada Operations for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), said the earlier than expected retirement of the two older classes of tank cars will be a challenge for the industry as it is struggling to clear as much product as possible. He described management of crude by rail shipments as a continental logistics exercise. In addition to making maximum use of the available tank cars, “we have to make sure there is capacity in the freight yards and on the rail lines to move them.” (more…)

Significant investments in rail, road infrastructure optimize Port of Montreal’s intermodal network

Fluidity is crucial for a logistics chain. More than 800,000 containers are transported by truck each year to and from the Port of Montreal, which is connected to a national network of highways throughout Canada and the U.S. Up to 2,500 trucks move through the port each day.

Another 700,000-plus containers are transported annually by rail to and from the port. The Montreal Port Authority (MPA) operates its own on-dock railway system that is directly connected to Canadian National and Canadian Pacific and their North American networks, with daily departures to Toronto, Chicago and Detroit. Some 60 to 80 container trains move through the port each week. (more…)

Canadian Pacific moved 25.8 million tonnes of Canadian grain in 2017-18 crop year

Canadian Pacific moved 25.8 million metric tonnes (MMT) of western Canadian grain and grain products, soybeans and other non-regulated principal field crops during the 2017-2018 crop year, up 1 per cent over the 2016-2017 crop-year and 1 per cent above its three-year average. September 2017 was CP’s biggest-ever month for moving Canadian grain.  

In its July 31, 2018 letter to Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, CP published a detailed plan to move this year’s crop. CP is closely watching crop forecasts for the railway’s service area, and is in regular communication with customers and supply chain partners to validate forecasts for the upcoming crop size. “Our agricultural shippers have needs that are unique within our book of business, and we believe an ongoing dialogue with those companies is essential to understanding and meeting their needs,” said Joan Hardy, CP’s Vice President Sales and Marketing – Grain and Fertilizers. “Our plans for moving this year’s crop reflect that.” (more…)

North American rail freight operators stay on track for a bumper year

By Alexander Whiteman

Strong headwinds failed to knock North American rail freight off its first-quarter rhythm, with both U.S. and Canadian operators reporting healthy first-half results.

CSX, which ended last year on a bitter note with the loss of rail turnaround king Hunter Harrison, continued its good start to the year by smashing company performance records. Its intermodal division’s results were less ground-breaking but strong, nonetheless, with revenue up 6 per cent (at $939 million) on the back of a 1 per cent (1.42 million tonnes) volume increase. Chief Executive Jim Foote said much of the intermodal growth came from international markets, noting that domestic business had been “relatively flat”. “Our intermodal network needs a ton of work to become the efficient part of our system that it needs to be,” said Mr. Foote. “We’re just beginning to get in there to figure out how to rationalize that big part of our business, so we can become more efficient and have a better product for our customers.” (more…)