customs brokerage, freight forwarding and truck transportation

CN, CP Gearing Up To Meet Winter Challenges

: General

Canadian National & Canadian Pacific Railways Release Winter Plans – Strategies and Contingency Planning 2018-10-04

Dear Valued Customer,

Both CP and CN have recently released winter plans. CP submitted its winter plan to the federal government September 27. The company stated that it is well positioned to move grain in the upcoming 2018/19 crop year, with plans to supply and spot 5,500 grain hopper cars weekly with CP equipment through mid-December this year. More than 700 new CP employees are now in various stages of training system-wide, and 100 locomotives will join the fleet. CP is planning on an additional 15 percent more locomotives in service, year-over-year, from October 1, 2017.
With CP’s busiest corridor running through the Alberta and British Columbia mountain ranges that receive significant annual snowfall, posing a risk to CP operations in this region, avalanche preparedness is a priority for the railroad.
To this end, CP has installed 29 snow and rockslide fences, which are systems of poles and connecting wires that trigger the railway signal system to prevent trains from advancing if snow or rocks are detected. It has also constructed seven snow sheds in areas particularly prone to avalanches. Controlled avalanches will also be set off when there is a high risk of a natural avalanche occurrence.
CN’s 2018-19 Winter Plan (PDF), addressing the months of December 2018 to March 2019, “confirms the commitment to regain the confidence of the business community, and enhance Canada’s reputation as a reliable export partner. We acted on this commitment with a Company-wide targeted focus on initiatives that will assist CN for years to come, but particularly during the coming winter months,” said CEO Jean-Jacques Ruest.
CN has increased its overall capital investments to a record $3.5 billion for 2018, and said it is on schedule to complete an investment of $400 million in infrastructure projects by the end of 2018 for the specific purpose of building resiliency by increasing train throughput velocity at strategic locations in Western Canada. The railway has hired 1,200 additional crew members, expanding its locomotive fleet and tripling the number of air repeater cars that help maintain train length during the severe cold. By the end of 2019, CN will have added 200 new locomotives to its fleet since the end of the 2017-2018 winter.
The company’s Winter Plan also addresses tools to help mitigate the impacts of cold weather on the supply chain. Among these, the use of distributed power, which CN started applying on trains operating in Western Canada on September 15, positioning the right equipment early and prior to winter to limit impact on train operations whenever cold arrives.
The railway also aims to use repeater cars, CN-modified boxcars containing air compressors and associated equipment. They supplement the air supply to the train air brake system, in a similar manner to locomotives under distributed power. Approximately 45 air repeater cars will be deployed in the Prairies where the impact of cold temperatures is the most significant, with the remaining 15 assigned to locations on an as-needed basis.
For the 2018-19 winter, CN has established rapid-deployment teams made up of dedicated managers from relevant departments available to quickly take action when a service disruption occurs. The railway is also acquiring additional generators that will be deployed across the system in the event of public utility power failures.
Winter changes supply chain capacity!
As both CP and CN stressed in their individual Winter Plans, supply chain capacity can be constrained during winter. 
  • The tipping point in terms of difficult operating conditions is -25°C. Below that temperature, railway technologies – steel rail, steel wheels, and long compressed air brake systems – become more vulnerable to problems that can disrupt normal operations.
  • With the closure of the St. Lawrence Seaway System comes the closure of the Port of Thunder Bay during the three-month peak period of grain shipments. That lost capacity of more than 2,500 grain carloads per week cannot be replaced by redirecting all those shipments to Prince Rupert or Vancouver because those corridors are already at capacity. Instead, customers shift demand to St. Lawrence area locations or to the U.S., alternate destinations that involve much longer distances and cycle times. This directly impacts how quickly cars can be returned to Western Canada for loading and reduces weekly available capacity.
  • Frequent rain at the Port of Vancouver, particularly during the winter months, impacts Canada’s supply chains, particularly in grain. Grain cannot be loaded in the rain with vessel cargo hatches open. While some terminals are equipped to load vessels that have grain feeder holes, other terminals do not have this option. Even when this option is available, it remains subject to the authorization of the ship’s captain, and loading productivity is reduced compared with free loading into open cargo hatches.
Thank you for being our Valued Customer. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Milgram-C.H. Robinson for further information.

Source: CIFFA 

Our information is compiled from a number of sources that to the best of our knowledge are accurate and correct. It is always the intent of our company to present accurate information. C.H. Robinson accepts no liability or responsibility for the information published herein. 
© 2018 C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.



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Milgram has developed a reputation for providing the highest level of service in the fields of Customs Brokerage, International Freight Forwarding and Ground Transportation.

We strive to make things simple for our clients by doing them better, and work hard to meet and exceed our clients expectations.

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