Canadian National expands locomotive fleet as traffic surges

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NEW YORK — Canadian National, alone among the big Class I systems, is expanding its locomotive fleet to handle a surge of traffic and anticipated growth to come.

CN is struggling to keep up with stronger-than-anticipated volume amid crew shortages and congestion, particularly on the railway’s key corridor linking Edmonton, Alberta, and Chicago.

Locomotives also are in tight supply, despite the delivery of the last of 22 new ES44ACs from General Electric in September, and the addition of 50 locomotives pulled from storage this fall.

Another 50 previously stored units are undergoing accelerated overhauls but won’t be ready for service quickly enough to power an onslaught of intermodal and frac sand volume.

“The good news is there are some locomotives available on the lease market,” Chief Financial Officer Ghislain Houle told an investor conference last week. “So we are going to get some locomotives on the lease market to help as a stopgap measure. But these are expensive, and you don’t want to start leasing locomotives, because these are your bread and butter. So don’t be surprised next year if you hear us being in the market to acquire locomotives.”

CN’s board of directors meets this month to consider the railway’s proposed capital budget for 2018.

Meanwhile, CN is leasing 100 locomotives, Chief Marketing Officer Jean-Jacques Ruest told the RailTrends 2017 conference last week. Half of the units hit CN rails in November, he tells Trains News Wire, while the remainder are expected to arrive in January.

Leased units spotted on CN trains recently include Citirail ES44ACs, Progress Rail ex-Santa Fe SD75Ms, and GE Capital Leasing former CSX Transportation Dash 8-40-CWs.

CN expects to have 250 new conductors join the ranks by the end of the year, and an additional 415 conductors in service by the end of March, Houle told the Credit Suisse Industrials Conference last week.

Ruest spoke before RailTrends 2017, a conference sponsored by analyst Anthony Hatch of ABH Consulting and the industry trade publication Progressive Railroading.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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