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…)

More freight services out of China as Kerry and Damco announce new rail routes

By Alexander Whiteman

One Belt, One Road is continuing its inexorable march into Europe, with both Damco and Kerry announcing new rail freight services out of China. Kerry’s westbound service will leave from Lianyungang, using the newly built Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway to bring shipments through Kazakhstan, the Caspian and into Turkey. Managing Director for China and north Asia, Edwardo Erni, said the service had a scheduled transit time of 18-20 days. “Our rail freight and trucking capabilities are extending their reach to the strategic locations of Turkey and Caucasus,” he said. “[With these] we will be able to grasp the immense market opportunities presented by the Belt and Road initiative with our enhanced position in the region.” (more…)

CN and CP announce second quarter results

Both of Canada’s major railways announced third quarter results for the period ended June 30. At both carriers, revenue growth lagged the growth rate of operating expenses, as challenging winter conditions increased operating expenses, and as both companies increased hiring and training activities to increase network capacity. CP suffered from interruptions resulting from labour negotiations and strike notices. (more…)

CN locomotive engineers in Canada ratify new contract

CN announced that the company’s 1,800 locomotives engineers in Canada have successfully ratified a new collective agreement.

The five-year contract with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), which runs through Dec. 31, 2022, provides wage and benefit improvements in each year of the agreement, in line with similar contracts in the industry, and modifies work rules that were of concern to both CN and engineers. 

“This new contract demonstrates CN’s on-going commitment to working together with our employees and the TCRC to address workplace issues, in a respectful and mutually beneficial manner,” said Mike Cory, CN Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer. “CN is very pleased to have renewed collective agreements with TCRC without any impact on the service we provide to customers and the North American economy.”

CN recognizes the assistance of Peter Simpson, head of the federal mediation and conciliation service, and his staff, during the collective bargaining process. 

CP and IBEW reach a tentative three-year agreement; TCRC-T&E and CP reach tentative, four-year agreement

Canadian Pacific Railway Limited and System Council No. 11 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) are pleased to announce that they have reached a tentative three-year deal.

CP President and CEO Keith Creel thanked the IBEW bargaining committee for their hard work and their creativity. “We have come through a number of challenging years to become an operational leader,” Creel said. “I look forward to working with this union to become the employer of choice.” (more…)

CN investing in new grain, lumber and boxcars, as well as infrastructure

CN plans to acquire 1,000 new generation high-cube grain hopper cars over the next two years to rejuvenate the aging equipment needed to serve increasing annual crop yields.

“This substantial investment in higher capacity payload hopper cars, with up to 10 per cent more capacity than the older generation, demonstrates our commitment to safely, efficiently and reliably moving the steadily increasing Prairie grain crop for our customers,” said JJ Ruest, Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of CN. “We clearly understand how important having an effective grain supply chain is to our nation’s reputation as a stable trade partner. With this week’s news of regulatory certainty, we can now make decisive long-term investments that will benefit the entire grain industry.” (more…)