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RAC Releases 10-Year Canadian Rail Snapshot

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor

The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) has published the 28th edition of its Trends Report, providing a ten-year performance overview (2010-19) of its member passenger and freight railroads.

RAC members include Class I railroads (six; Kansas City Southern is not included); short lines (39); and tourist (six), intercity passenger (two) and commuter (five) railroads. CN and Canadian Pacific account for the majority of freight rail activity.

Following are among the key report highlights. (Download the complete report below.)

• Over the past decade, the freight and passenger accident rates have decreased by 20% and 59% respectively. In 2019, the freight rail sector’s accident rate rose 3.6% from the previous year to 2.13 accidents per billion gross ton-miles; the passenger rail sector’s accident rate was 0.44 accidents per million riders, representing a 45% improvement from 2018.

• In 2019, Canada’s railroads originated 47% more carloads and moved 47% more people compared with 2010. RAC attributes this growth to its members investing a record $3.1 billion into Canadian assets in 2019, breaking the previous record of $2.4 billion set in 2018. RAC noted that “while investments increased across many asset categories, the most notable increase was the $308 million, or 84%, increase in investments in rolling stock (particularly for grain transportation and VIA’s fleet replacement program).”

•  5.7 million carloads originated in Canada in 2019—similar to 2018. Increases in intermodal, coal, and fuel and chemicals were offset by reductions in shipments of forest products, paper products, minerals and metals, leading to an overall decrease of 0.4%.

• In 2019, total intermodal traffic originating in Canada rose 2.6% from 2018. The 2019 total was 18.5% higher than the 2014-18 average of 1.6 million intermodal carloads.

• In 2019, freight rail traffic, measured by revenue ton-miles, decreased by 0.2% from 2018, but was 5.5% higher than the 2014-18 average. Year-over-year, the freight rail sector’s workload, measured by gross ton-miles, decreased by 0.1%, but was 5.7% higher than the 2014-18 average.

• The freight car fleet increased by 2.9% in 2019, and the number of locomotives in service for 2019 grew by 1.4% year over year to reach a record-high 3,840.

• Commuter railroads in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec reported a record 101.9 million riders in 2019, up 29.1% compared with the 2014-18 average.

• In 2019, intercity passenger railroads carried more than 5.3 million riders, up 5.5% from 2018 and 19.6% above the 2014-18 average. Passenger-miles and passenger train-miles increased by 6.3% and 1.5%, respectively, year over year. The average number of intercity riders per train grew by 4.7% to 149, while the average length of journey increased by 0.8% to 211 miles.

• In 2019, the Canadian rail industry’s workforce grew 5.5% from the previous year.

• From 2010-19, the railroads provided $13.8 billion in taxes to Canadian governments.

“2019 was another strong year for Canadian railroaders,” RAC President and CEO Marc Brazeau said. “While setting all-time records in passenger trips, investment and taxes paid to Canadian governments, they continued to deliver in the key areas of safety, innovation, environmental stewardship and growth.”

Data for 2020 will be covered in next year’s report, according to RAC.


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