Canada Markets

Vancouver Rail movement will be Slow to Recover

Cliff Jamieson
By  Cliff Jamieson , Canadian Grains Analyst
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This chart shows the number of hopper cars viewed as idle or not moving for 48 hours or more across the six shipping corridors for the days reported during recent weeks. The increase for the Vancouver corridor shows the first day-over-day drop since the weather event in the lower mainland and highlights the backlog that will further challenge railways. (DTN graphic by Cliff Jamieson)

Railcars are on the move again through the mountains following last week's historic storm. Canadian Pacific Railway opened track to movement as of 2 p.m. on Nov. 23 and latest reports indicate that Canadian National Railway would achieve limited movement starting on Nov. 24. More than one train has passed over the repaired CP track, with the speed limited to 10 miles per hour which will lead to a slow recovery.

The attached chart shows the cars not moving for 48 hours or longer for each of the six major shipping corridors for the past few weeks, as reported on most days by the AG Transport Coalition. As seen on the chart, on Nov. 15, there were 958 idle cars or cars not moving in the Vancouver corridor. This number grew to 5,022 cars as of Nov. 22, split between CP with 2,632 cars and CN with 2,390 cars. This number represents 95% of the number of CP cars viewed as idle, as well as 87% of the idle CN cars.

The number of idle cars in the Vancouver corridor dipped to 4,339 cars as of No. 23, the first sign of life in the corridor since the weather event took place due to movement on the CP track. At slow speeds, the recovery will be slow and is viewed as "fragile." It is estimated that the recent outage will require a month or more to return to normalized flow.

Potentially working against the recovery effort is additional atmospheric river patterns poised to hit the West Coast, including areas still struggling to recover from recent flooding with saturated soils. Environment Canada Public Alerts include a rainfall warning for the lower mainland, with 50 to 80 millimeters of rain expected from Wednesday night through Thursday night. Yet another event is to bring heavy rain on Saturday, while at least one source is indicating over 200 mm during the next seven days, or through the week ending Dec. 1.

Cliff Jamieson can be reached at

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