August 15, 2018

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CN increasing national and provincial capacity

Local training centre bristling with people seeking railway careers

Symington Yard is receiving enhancements this year, including a dozen new and extended tracks, as part of CN’s record $3.4 billion in infrastructure spending for 2018. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)</p></p>

Symington Yard is receiving enhancements this year, including a dozen new and extended tracks, as part of CN’s record $3.4 billion in infrastructure spending for 2018. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)

Canadian National Railway is taking to heart the increased demand from the commodity sector, especially in Western Canada, by beefing up its network infrastructure — including $130 million in capital spending in Manitoba this year.

It’s part of the company’s previously announced record $3.4-billion in spending this year, which will include 1,000 new grain hopper cars pledged late last month, and 200 new GE locomotives, in a deal that was announced in December.

In addition to the usual investments to upgrade rails and ties and rehab crossings, the most noteworthy new work in Manitoba will be the addition of a dozen new and extended tracks within its Symington Yard in Transcona.

Symington is the railway’s largest switching yard in Western Canada, crucial to the railway’s movement of goods east and west — as well as for its U.S. network through Chicago and down to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Canadian National Railway is taking to heart the increased demand from the commodity sector, especially in Western Canada, by beefing up its network infrastructure — including $130 million in capital spending in Manitoba this year.

It’s part of the company’s previously announced record $3.4-billion in spending this year, which will include 1,000 new grain hopper cars pledged late last month, and 200 new GE locomotives, in a deal that was announced in December.

In addition to the usual investments to upgrade rails and ties and rehab crossings, the most noteworthy new work in Manitoba will be the addition of a dozen new and extended tracks within its Symington Yard in Transcona.

Symington is the railway’s largest switching yard in Western Canada, crucial to the railway’s movement of goods east and west — as well as for its U.S. network through Chicago and down to the Gulf of Mexico.

"We are investing for the long haul. Our project at Symington Yard in Winnipeg, combined with track investments across the Prairies, and new equipment and more people, will help us deliver superior service," Doug Ryhorchuk, vice-president of CN’s western region, said.

Earlier this week, the company announced $340 million in capital expenditures in B.C. as the company ups its game to handle another record-setting grain crop and to overcome nagging bottlenecks that occurred again earlier this year. In 2013-14, after a massive crop followed by brutally cold winter weather across the country, Canadian railways faltered in their ability to ship grain to coastal shipping centres.

Kate Fenske, a CN spokeswoman in Winnipeg, said the work at Symington Yard will take place this year.

"It won’t be changing the boundaries or expand beyond its current footprint, but it will expand the capacity of what the yard can handle," she said. "We are seeing growing demand from our customers across multiple commodities, including grain and lumber as well as intermodal."

In addition to delivering new hopper cars and locomotives, the company also has 350 new lumber cars on order as well as 350 more boxcars.

"There is strong demand in the Canadian economy," she said. "We’re trying to get ahead of that to build the capacity that we need to boost the entire network."

Other investments in Manitoba will go toward improving safety and efficiency — including replacing approximately 48 kilometres of rail, installing more than 80,000 new railroad ties, rebuilding around 20 road crossing surfaces as well as doing maintenance work on bridges, culverts, signal systems and other track infrastructure.

The company is also adding around 1,250 new conductors into its system before next winter, with about 100 of them based out of Winnipeg.

The additional staffing issues also mean CN’s Claude Mongeau National Training Centre in Winnipeg will be hopping. Fenske said every new conductor will receive training in Winnipeg, along with new engineers and other technical staff.

The company has also just started a new management training program, the first of its kind at CN.

"We’re seeing 500-plus people every week coming in from across the country," she said.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Martin Cash

Martin Cash
Reporter

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

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