Canadian National Railway said Thursday that it plans further improvements along its tracks leading to the Port of Prince Rupert to handle growing freight volumes.
CN said it will construct five extended sidings on its British Columbia North Line this year to handle growing volumes between Prince Rupert and Edmonton, Canada.
In 2011, more than half a million carloads/intermodal units moved over CN's corridor to the port, which is in far north British Columbia, close to the Alaskan panhandle.
By 2015, CN traffic on this corridor could nearly double.
CN said it has extended or constructed 21 sidings to handle 12,000-foot trains between Edmonton and Prince Rupert since 2004. This is in addition to new signaling and train control, several tunnel and bridge clearances, yard expansions at Smithers and Terrace, British Columbia, and the installation of a longer siding at Swan Landing, Alberta.
CN's investments since 2004 in capacity expansion along the Edmonton-Prince Rupert corridor will total more than C$150 million ($147.8 million) by the end of this year, with further extended sidings expected to be built in future years.
Keith Creel, CN's executive vice-president and chief operating officer, said the investments will help the railroad accommodate growing import-export traffic moving between the port and interior points in Canada and the United States.
Prince Rupert's Fairview container terminal, which opened in 2007, handled 410,469 TEUs last year, 20 percent more than in 2010 (loaded containers in 2011 were 333,535 TEUs, up 30 percent). This year, through the end of May 2012, Fairview handled 219,692 TEUs, 87 percent more than in the first five months of 2011.
The port's Ridley Terminal, which handles bulk products such as coal, handled 9.6 million tons in 2011, 16 percent more than in 2010. Through the end of May, volumes were 4.3 million tons, 7 percent ahead of volumes for the first five month of 2011.
Creel said the improvements will help the railroad better move rising export coal volumes from existing and new mines in the region to Ridley, whose handling capacity is expected to double by the end of 2014 to 24 million tonnes.
"The longer sidings increase the fluidity of operations in this major CN freight corridor and allow us to haul increased volumes in safer, more efficient trains equipped with distributed power (DP) technology," he said.
Distributed power, where locomotives are placed in several points throughout a train and controlled remotely from the lead locomotive, provides faster, smoother train starts, improved braking and lower pulling forces at the head-end of a train, CN said, and improves safety, reduces fuel consumption and pollution. - Chris Dupin