Canadian railways aim to boost grain movement, government may act

Mon Feb 24, 2014 3:31pm EST
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada's two big railways are ramping up to provide thousands more cars per week to transport grain to ports, government officials said on Monday, aiming to work through a backlog of orders after last year's record harvest.

But Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz warned that he is considering all options, including new rail regulations, to smooth the flow of grain.

Record Canadian crops of wheat and canola, along with frigid weather, have overwhelmed Canadian National Railway Co and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd, resulting in a backlog of orders for tens of thousands of grain cars.

Saskatchewan Economy Minister Bill Boyd said in a statement that both railways assured the government of Saskatchewan last week that they are working to deploy thousands more grain cars per week, and would sustain that pace until at least December 2014.

Saskatchewan produces more wheat and canola than any other Canadian province. Grain companies also told the provincial government that they could move to 24-hour handling service, Boyd said.

CP spokesman Ed Greenberg confirmed that Boyd's comments are accurate.

Ritz, who met Monday with the railways and grain companies, said grain companies told him they can best run with service of 13,000 rail cars per week, nearly three times what railways currently provide.

But Ritz left the meeting unimpressed and told reporters he is considering all options, including new regulations, to speed the flow of grain from western farm regions to ports. In some areas, rail cars are sitting on track awaiting locomotives and crews, he told reporters.   Continued...

Canada's Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa November 29, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Chris Wattie