Canadian Pacific Railway says avalanches and more orders to move grain than were forecasted are why its service is slow.
“We are working to understand capacity needs and we are focused on implementing service-reliability initiatives,” CP spokesperson Breanne Feigel said in response to complaints from the Western Grain Elevator Association (WGEA). “We are looking to improve service going forward.”
In a news release Feb. 28 the WGEA said CP’s grain-shipping service “is currently at the lowest level experienced by WGEA members in their collective memory and clearly underscores the need for legislative change.”
Since August 1, 2010, the cars required weekly by grain shippers versus car orders accepted by CP have averaged only 65 per cent, according to the WGEA. It says when combining both the car-order acceptance level and car spotting performance, CP has supplied fewer than 30 per cent of the required cars on time.
Feigel declined to comment on calls to amend the Canada Transportation Act so the railways are penalized when their service is inadequate, except to say CP is anxious to see the Grain Service Review panel’s final report.
In its interim report, two of the three panellists recommended the federal government prepare amendments to the Canada Transportation Act to regulate the railways, but only enact it in 2013 if the railways haven’t by then voluntarily agreed to pay shippers’ penalties when service is poor.
CP is doing several things to improve grain shipping, including scheduling bulk grain trains into its integrated operating plan and advising grain shippers when to expect the delivery of grain cars to fill.
In addition CP has, and still is, hiring more employees. In 2010 the railway hired 1,600 new workers, but it takes seven months before they are fully trained, Feigel said.
Another 1,700 employees, including conductors and engineers, will be hired this year, she said.
“Overarching this, the whole supply chain was impacted by extreme weather conditions in this front half of 2011,” Feigel said. “CP for example had avalanches, which challenged capacity, particularly in that January month. So that has had some impact on demand and capacity.”
In addition, when CP was planning what it needed to move the 2010 crop grain shippers indicated grain production was 15 per cent lower than last year’s, Feigel said.
Grain shippers have been moving more grain to Vancouver than expected, requiring more of CP’s resources, she said.
Despite the problems CP grain unloads at Vancouver so far this crop year have exceeded the five-year average, Feigel said.