A high-ranking official with CN Rail was in Regina on Tuesday, talking about measures taken to improve grain movement.
CN Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs Sean Finn says the company is meeting its target of spotting at least 5,500 rail cars per week.
“Our challenge is to make sure we don’t lose our momentum and keep on focussing on serving our grain customers while not neglecting our other customers.”
CN supplied 74 per cent of rail cars ordered by grain companies in week 33 of the shipping season, according to statistics from the Ag Transport Coalition. The railway has improved for three consecutive weeks after hitting a low of 17 per cent.
CN has been scrambling to rehire and train new staff, as well as adding locomotive power.
“One lesson learned from this process is that we need to have excess capacity, not just in locomotives and track, we need excess capacity for crews. Maybe should we look at how we right-size the business when we have a downturn,” Finn said.
CN cut jobs prior to 2017 following six consecutive quarters of negative growth. Finn says they only expected three per cent growth last year, but it turned out to be double digit increases for some commodities.
“When we let people off before the growth in 2017, we weren’t quick enough to bring them back. Ultimately, people make choices when they are not called back to work.”
The company is busy training new employees at its facilities in Winnipeg.
Finn admits there is some work to do in re-establishing farmers’ trust in CN’s service reliability. He is confident measures contained in Bill C-49 will avoid a repeat next winter.
“We will be required to provide a plan in July of how we intend to move the crop based on estimates. By October, we will have to have a plan for winter . . . . I think we will be a lot more focussed.”
The amended version of Bill C-49 is in Parliament. Grain companies and farm groups hope the legislation can be passed before June 22, when MP’s go on their summer break.
(above photo: CN photo of trainees in Winnipeg)