CN Rail Expansions

Lynsey Kitching

Jay A. Roberts, Account Manager for CN gives an update on CN's plans for expansion over the next few years.
The CN Rail is a very necessary to exporting resources from the Northeast. During the Coal Forum Jay A. Roberts, Account Manager for CN gave a talk about the expansions expected to the CN rail. as well as the ports in the West. 
Roberts says “What we’re about at CN is partnerships so we can develop our coal supply chain. CN has a fairly large franchise that spans across North America. Our railway goes from the northern port in Prince Rupert down to the ports in the Lower Mainlands and the Western shore. Our commodity mix is very diverse ranging from fertilizers, metals and minerals, petroleum and chemical, as well as coal.”
What is unique about the rail system in the Northeast, are the various  various options and alternatives we have in terms of transport. Roberts says, “We have two routes to port but we serve three ports on the west coast of North America: Port Ridley in Price Rupert, Neptune Terminals in Vancouver and the West Shore terminal. In addition to the west coast, we also have the port of Thunder Bay. We currently move Canadian coal to the port of Thunder Bay to get loaded onto lakers and we also serve domestic U.S. destinations for Canadian coal.”
What is the advantage of the Canadian coal supply chain? Roberts says, “It’s the proximity to Asia. The port of Prince Rupert is about 13.6 sailing days to Japan. The main competitor for Canadian coal is Australian coal. That route is about 12.9 days. It looks like the Australians have a slight advantage, and they do in terms of 1.7 day transit time. However, there is a five day queue at Gladstone port in Australia and there is a zero day queue in Prince Rupert if you factor that into the vessel cost, the advantage goes to Prince Rupert.”
The CN Prince Rupert supply chain is the only one in North America that has the infrastructure and the available expansion capacity to accommodate not only the coal CN is hauling now, but millions more per annum. Roberts says, “The CN Prince Rupert supply chain is easily about to expand in 2014 to carry 30 million metric tonnes, that is double what we’re doing today, in two years. The Prince Rupert port has plans to expand upwards of 60 million metric tonnes by 2016 if required. “The port of metro Vancouver has its own expansion plan over the next five years, however, most of the coal in the Northeast will go to Ridley, simply because of proximity. Roberts says, “Ridley has plans this year to add a third stack reclaimer, which will take them to 18 million metric tonnes per year.  It isn’t possible for us to maximize our coal supply chain in isolation, but together we can maximize the volume of coal we move from A to B, “he continues, “With the addition of a four stack reclaimer it will take Ridley to 24 million tonnes. With the addition of a second rotary dumper, a new shed and more storage, it will take them to 30 million tonnes. Going into the future we’re looking at 40 or more metric tonnes, but Ridley is looking at about 60 million tonnes possible should demand warrant it. “in terms of increasing the size of the rail system, CN has some big plans. In Tumbler Ridge, CN is looking to extend two sidings on the track and increase train lengths from the mines in the region. Roberts says, “It’s fairly simple for us to expand by adding new sidings or increasing existing sidings to increase the capacity of the trains in the corridor. We’ve tried to work very closely with our customers in terms of understanding how many trains are needed now and next year. That allows us to know how we need to increase our infrastructure to meet demand. This year we will have spent over $155 million extending five long sidings in our core lane to Prince Rupert.”