CN has issued its “2022-23 Winter Plan—Meeting the Challenge,” a framework to ensure it meets customer and stakeholder needs in the months ahead.
The plan, required by provisions of the Canada Transportation Act, outlines the challenges CN faces operating in Canadian winter conditions and sets out the actions the railroad has implemented to maintain operations “at a level acceptable to the needs of all our customers, while ensuring we continue to operate in a safe and efficient manner,” CN reported on Oct. 3. (Downloadable plan available below.)
Among the steps CN has taken to prepare are:
• Putting into effect this past spring and summer multiple operational changes, “such as renewed emphasis on on-time train departure from CN’s major rail yards for scheduled train service, driving improvements in rail network capacity and improving fluidity and velocity.”
• Implementing scheduled slots for bulk unit trains in key corridors to increase rail capacity and velocity.
• Ensuring main line capacity and feeder traffic volumes match during extreme cold stretches to avoid congestion.
• Deploying acoustic bearing detectors at five locations across the network to reduce failures online.
• Launching, in advance of this winter, CN’s third-generation automated track inspection program fleet cars in an aim to reduce risks of rail-related incidents.
• Increasing the frequency of internal coordination and planning calls between Transportation, Network Operations, Supply Chain team, Resource Planning team, and Rail Traffic Control.
• Improving overall locomotive resilience and availability, and acquiring 57 high-horsepower locomotives, bringing CN’s inventory of high- and mid-horsepower locomotives to approximately 1,950—a total greater than each of the two previous years, according to CN.
• Acquiring 800 new boxcars, to be delivered in early 2023, and 500 high-efficiency hopper cars, to be delivered during the 2022-23 crop year.
• Developing and preparing the workforce. CN said its overall employee count was 850 higher as of the end of June versus the beginning of the year, with most of the increase in operating crew ranks. The Class I is expected to graduate 500 additional new conductors through the end of 2022. Additionally, rail operating rules-qualified managers are slated to be “available to protect rail traffic movement and support operations during challenging winter operating conditions.”
“Since joining CN in March, I have focused our team on servicing our customers’ needs by getting back to basics,” CN CEO Tracy Robinson said. “This means running a scheduled operation, aligning capacity with demand, and working closely with our customers and stakeholders to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the full supply chain. This plan reflects that focus. It reviews core aspects of CN’s operations: how safety and greater efficiency work together; how we plan with customers to deliver service during winter on a sector-by-sector basis; how we invest to improve productivity; and how we mobilize people and resources to enhance the resilience of our network. The steps outlined in this plan will help ensure a more efficient and resilient CN network and an increasingly reliable and resilient supply chain.”