Canada freight rail gains ground

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According to the Railway Association of Canada, Canada's rail sector has bounced back from the 2009 global economic downturn posting solid volume growth. The industry has also continued to invest significantly in increased capacity and efficiencies. The findings are outlined in Rail Trends 2011, an annual anthology of statistics about rail sector performance published by the Railway Association of Canada.

“Our sector’s 3% growth in cumulative volume of carloads through the first three quarters of 2011 from the same point last year reflects improved economic conditions and the greater responsiveness and service performance of Canada’s transportation supply chain backbone,” said Railway Association of Canada President and CEO Cliff Mackay.

Through significant investment, renewal and innovation, Canadian railways have modernized to meet capacity demands and increased their flexibility and efficiency to adapt to changing operating challenges in a highly-competitive environment that is impacted by a shifting global economic climate.

The most capital intensive sector in the economy, rail invested C$1.7 billion (US$1.66 billion) in Canada in 2010, up $181 million (US$177 million) or 11.9% year-over-year. Expenditures ranged from the replacement of rail, ties and other track materials, improving bridges, purchasing and re-building rolling stock, to investments in information technology systems to deliver better services, improve safety and operating efficiencies.

Operators invested in the purchase of new, line-haul locomotives that meet the EPA Tier 2 emissions standard, the recertification of high-horsepower locomotives to the EPA Tier 0 standard upon remanufacture and the retirement of medium-horsepower locomotives manufactured between 1973 and 1999. Additional initiatives to reduce fuel consumption, increase productivity and improve customer service include the acquisition of additional higher-capacity freight cars and lower-weight aluminum gondola units.

In total, these fuel-efficiency initiatives have contributed to significant fuel savings and reduced GHGs. While freight workload grew 8.5%, the number of intercity passengers expanded 8.9% and commuter trains transported 42.9% more commuters over the past decade, fuel consumption increased only 1.4%.

Rail also continued to collect dividends on investments made in public safety awareness, crossing closures and technology initiatives. The number of accidents based on the industry’s workload decreased from 2.8 in 2009 to 2.6 in 2010, while the number of accidents recorded dropped 27.8% during the past five years.

Passenger railways registered 62 train accidents in 2010, five fewer accidents than 2009. The accident rate dropped to 0.85 in 2010 from 0.95 in 2009, a 10.5% decrease. Also noteworthy, is the five-year 36.6% reduction in the accident rate from 1.34 in 2005 to 0.85 in 2010.

A reflection of the recovering economy, operating revenue increased CA$1.2 billion (US$1.17 billion) or 12.2%, to C$10.8 billion (US$10.6 billion) in 2010, the second highest on record. Freight revenue of C$9.6 billion (US$9.4 billion) in 2010 exceeded 2009’s freight revenue by C$1.1 billion (US$1.07 billion) or 13.3%. Revenue from intercity, rail “commuter,” and tourist passenger services totaled C$673 million (US$660 million) in 2010 compared with C$627 million (US$615 million) in 2009, a CA$46 million (US$45 million) or 7.3% increase year-over-year.

Intercity passenger miles (kilometers) amounted to 877 million miles (1,412 million kilometers) in 2010, 1.9% less than the year before and 9.1% lower than a decade earlier. The average length of journey in 2010 was 204 miles (328 kilometers), almost unchanged from a year earlier.”We have also accelerated our recruiting efforts to backfill a wave of soon-to-be baby boomer retirees,” said Mackay. “The 3,500 people in Canada the sector has hired this year and the more than 10,000 new employees that will come on board over the next five years across the country, will ensure rail strengthens its position as an important backbone and enabler of the Canadian economy. The rail sector anticipates modest economic growth in 2012 and with supporting rail traffic levels we are well poised to continue to move Canada’s economy forward.”

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