Railways book higher grain freight revenue for Q1

(File photo by Dave Bedard)

Canada’s big two railways reported somewhat higher revenue from handling grain during their fiscal quarter ending March 31, despite both companies reporting winter weather woes.

Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) on April 23 reported grain segment revenue of $380 million for the quarter, up six per cent from the year-earlier period, on about 92,800 grain carloads, down five per cent, for grain revenue per carload of $4,089, up 12 per cent.

Canadian National Railway (CN) on Monday last week also reported an increase in its grain-and-fertilizers segment revenue at $577 million, up seven per cent, and in grain and fertilizers revenue per carload, at $3,872, up four per cent — but it also booked a three per cent increase in grain and fertilizer carloads, at 149,000.

“Despite a prolonged period of historic cold temperatures in key segments of our network, CN railroaders delivered record first-quarter carload volumes,” CN CEO J.J. Ruest said in the company’s first-quarter release.

“This past winter was one of the most challenging in my railroading career,” CP CEO Keith Creel said in the company’s release the previous week. “I applaud our employees for their resiliency in overcoming loss and pushing through extraordinary conditions and challenges throughout February and March.”

The loss to which Creel referred was a fatal train crash in the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia in early February. Three CP employees were killed when a 112-car grain train’s emergency brakes let go at the site of a crew change and the train accelerated downhill on its own, with most of the cars then derailing at a nearby curve.

CP, in a separate release Friday, also reported “all-time record” traffic in Canadian grain and grain products for April 2019, having moved 2.643 million tonnes, topping its previous record from October last year.

In terms of overall Q1 profit, CP reported first-quarter net income of $434 million on $1.767 billion in revenues, up from $348 million on $1.662 billion in the year-earlier period. CN, for the same quarter, reported net income of $786 million on $3.544 billion in revenues, up from $741 million on $3.194 billion.

Percentage-wise, CN’s most significant increases in gross revenue came from its petroleum and chemicals segment, up 30 per cent at $735 million, and coal, up 15 per cent at $163 million. CP’s most-improved revenue segments were in energy, chemicals and plastics, up 23 per cent at $315 million, and forest products, up 11 per cent at $73 million. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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