Canadian grain distributors say CN rail service still inadequate
The Western Grain Elevator Association, representing nine grain handling businesses that account for more than 90 percent of western Canada’s bulk grain exports, is continuing to level charges of poor service against Canadian National Railway Co.
Last week Ed Harris, CN’s executive vice president operations, dismissed trade group complaints of insufficient railcar supply and late deliveries of grain to its facilities. Harris said CN had overcome service issues related to difficult winter conditions and that many grain elevators are not open on weekends or holidays to receive shipments.
“The difficulties encountered by grain shippers cannot be solely attributed to winter conditions since they extend to well before the past winter and continue to occur at the present time,” WGEA Executive Director Wade Sobkowich said in a statement. “CN’s failure rate in (spotting rail cars) is in the order of 30 percent to 40 percent, which is clearly unacceptable. In addition, export terminals have experienced a shortage of railcars resulting in considerable down time.
“The fact that Mr. Harris is not aware of these difficulties or of the grain companies’ repeated requests that they be addressed causes great concern to the WGEA since it suggests a disconnect between CN senior management and its operations. If left unresolved, this situation jeopardizes Canada’s reputation as a reliable shipper of quality products,” Sobkowich said.