CN ramps up rail service as propane, grain industries demand priority

MONTREAL — Canadian National Railway Co. says propane shortages in Central and Eastern Canada are “being addressed” as it strives to ramp up service following an eight-day strike, but gas and grain producers are demanding priority treatment that may not come.

Quebec began to ration propane, which is used to dry crops and heat hospitals and nursing homes, after 3,200 CN conductors and yard workers hit the picket lines last week, cutting off supply.

Sean Finn, CN’s head of corporate affairs, says the railway does not prioritize particular commodities, but he says two trains filled with 10 million litres of propane each have already arrived in eastern Ontario and Montreal. Finn says CN is deploying extra resources as it tries to unclog its crowded rail yards, but that extra product movement is not a guarantee.

The Canadian Propane Association is calling on the country’s largest railway to give “priority support to replenish propane” in Ontario, Quebec the Maritimes.

Wade Sobkowich, head of the Western Grain Elevator Association, says a $130-million backlog of Prairie grain may lose much of its value if trains can’t ship it to port before spring, when prices typically drop amid heightened global supply.

The longest rail strike since 2012 halted shipments of commodities from fertilizer to forestry products and raised angst among farmers after a late harvest already put pressure on the rail network.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2019.

Companies in this story: (TSX:CNR)

The Canadian Press