On Tuesday, CN Rail's Executive Vice President was in Edmonton talking with farm groups.

Sean Finn says he wanted to come to Alberta to apologize for the grain backlog in person.

"In March we did apologize to our grain customers, farmers in Western Canada, and a lot of our customers for not having provided a service at the level they expect and are used to having from CN. We let them down."

Finn says, one of the main questions he was asked at the meeting was how did this grain backlog happen?

"We had gone through prior to 2017, we had six quarters or 18 months of a reduction in volumes, and we entered 2017 with a forecast of a volume increase of about 3 per cent. Very quickly within the first couple months of 2017, we realized we had an increase in volumes of certain commodities between 11 and 20 per cent. By the time we got to the point we realized it was sustainable, it was September, and we said we're short crews, we're short locomotives, and there are pinch points in our network that impacts capacity."

He says, to train a conductor takes eight months, and new locomotives take about a year to build.

Finn says, they leased 130 high power locomotives to move grain last fall, by they still fell behind in the winter months.

Some farmers have made the comment that grain backlogs always seem to come when there's something more profitable to ship, but Finn says that's not the case.

"We don't make that trade-off. What we look at is how do we move the system to keep it very fluid. Secondly, we have commitments to ourselves to move a certain amount of grain per week, so we don't look at the profitability of grain versus other business. Crude is often viewed as being a problem for us moving grain."

He says, crude oil is only one per cent of CN Rail's overall volume, so it's not a large portion of their business.

In the immediate term, Finn says, the company will hire 1000 employees.

"We're going to hire probably another 800 employees between now and the end of June, so that will help us long term. Secondly, when it comes to locomotives they will be coming on, so we will make sure those are kept in a position to serve our customers, and we will invest $250 million more capital in the Winnipeg to Edmonton corridor to make sure we have for example, a double track coming into the yard in Edmonton."

He says CN Rail will make sure they have excess locomotives for the next grain season, and also more employees available to help with more difficult winters or a large grain crop.

Finn says grain car order fulfillment is currently around 70 per cent.

More Ag News

USDA Releases 'Vanilla' Dec WASDE Report

'Vanilla' is the term being used to describe the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) December World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) Report. That from Dan Basse,…

Government Invests In Swine Health Surveillance

The Government of Canada has announced it will invest up to $1.5 million in the Canadian Pork Council (CPC) to adopt a virus detection system to support animal health. Funded under the Canadian…

Tight Supply Of Milling Oats Creating Market Upswing

There could be a lot more oats grown in western Canada next year. That according to John Duvenaud, publisher of the Wild Oats Grain Market Advisory. "The bulk of the oats are grown in Saskatchewan,…

Assiniboia Farmer Promoting Canadian Durum

The Canadian Wheat New Crop Missions 2018 are well underway. The missions are organized and coordinated through three organizations: Cereals Canada, Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) and…

CFA Welcomes Senate Committee's Report On Climate Change

In a report released Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry says the federal government must protect Canada’s agriculture and forestry sectors from rising costs associated with the…

McDonald's To Reduce Antibiotic Use

McDonald’s has announced a policy to reduce the overall use of antibiotics important to human health, which applies across 85% of the company's global beef supply chain. According to the World Health…

Canadian Meat Council Disputes Food Price Report Findings

The Canadian Meat Council (CMC) says the 2019 Canada Food Price Report, released last week, makes assumptions that the cost of meat is set to fall because Canadians are adopting plant-based diets.…

Autonomous Power Platform DOT Hits The Market Next Year

Farmers will be able to buy a driverless machine next year to use in their fields. The autonomous u-shaped power platform, dot, carries sprayer, grain cart, and seeder implements, and has been…

East Central Fillies Jump to 10-1

It was a shutout for the East Central Fillies' defence on Friday. The Fillies were led by Bridgette Vedress, as she buried two goals on the Saskatoon Comet Predators. Lauren Hinz, the Fillies'…

Senior Boys Basketball: St. Brieux vs. Melfort

It was another dominant night for the St. Brieux Crusaders Senior Boys basketball team. They overcame Melfort with a score of 87-52 on Friday night.

DiscoverWestman.com is Westman's only source for community news and information such as weather and classifieds.

Search the Biz Guide

Login