Trains Enter Vancouver After CP Rail Restores Limited Service After Mudslides

Trains have rolled into Vancouver for the first time since floods and landslides cut key supply links in southern British Columbia, Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. said.

CP cars loaded with prairie grain and fuel drove into the port town this morning after limited service resumed on faded tracks.

The Calgary-based company said its rail corridor has suffered damage at some 30 locations between Vancouver and Kamloops, BC, with “significant loss of infrastructure” at 20 of them.

“The next few days will be crucial to realign the entire supply chain,” spokeswoman Salem Woodrow said in a telephone interview.

Hundreds of workers and contractors have worked around the clock to repair railroad tracks after torrential rains and mudslides swallowed the streets and highways, throwing out CP railcars and at least one locomotive along the Fraser Canyon near Hope, BC.

East of Lytton, BC, the tracks linger over a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway that was swept away by a landslide.

Beginning Nov. 14, floods hampered freight traffic between Canada’s largest port and BC’s Okanagan Valley region, displaced hundreds of residents and stranded thousands, killing at least four people.

Canadian National Railway Co. said it also planned to restore limited services on Wednesday.

“Repair work on CN’s network continues and we expect trains to run on the line between Prince George and Vancouver this afternoon and the Kamloops-Vancouver corridor to reopen tonight, barring unforeseen problems,” spokesman Mathieu Gaudreault said on Wednesday. an announcement. e-mail.

November is a critical time for grain shipments, especially canola, with most of Canada’s grain being transported by rail to ports in BC.

Some may be diverted to Prince Rupert, BC, the United States, or Thunder Bay, but the window for the latter is all but closed as winter ice looms, while rail freight is generally difficult to massively divert.

Contract renewal and demurrage fines — issued by a shipping company when cargo exceeds the time allowed at a terminal — threaten farmers and grain elevators trying to clear overcrowded barns and silos.

According to the Western Grain Elevator Association, prairie corn’s backlog could lose much of its value if trains can’t ship it to port before spring, when prices tend to fall due to increased global supply.

John Gradek, a transportation expert and former senior manager at CP, says questions remain about short-term traffic capacity and long-term infrastructure resilience.

“The track may be open, but you’re still not up to the volume they carried in the past,” he said of Canada’s two largest railroads.

The corridors of the CP and CN run along the Fraser River east of Vancouver. Others meander through avalanche-prone peaks protected by “snowsheds” — tunnel-like covering that covers the track — or run along thin plateaus between the river and the mountains.

“You had erosion of the riverbed from flooding that created these spaces … so you were literally building on flood planes. You’re building on high-risk areas when you do that,” Gradek said.

“It may be necessary to go back and review the topography of those tracks to understand what kind of infrastructure we can design or build to protect against landslides.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 24, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:CP, TSX:CNR)

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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