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COMPETITION WATCH: CN rejects WGEA criticism about grain delivery reliability

EDMONTON, Alta. -- CN today rejected criticism of its service performance by the Western Grain Elevator Association...

EDMONTON, Alta. — CN today rejected criticism of its service performance by the Western Grain Elevator Association (WGEA), saying it is doing a solid job of meeting customer shipping orders for grain.

Ed Harris, CN’s executive vice-president, operations, said: “CN is at a loss to understand WGEA’s statement this week. Severe weather conditions in January and February caused problems for grain movement, all the way from the farm gate to port terminals. But CN worked with its customers throughout that period to ensure priority needs were met.

“CN has overcome winter-related service issues, and is making grain available at terminal elevators consistently and reliably,” Harris said. “The only issue on the horizon is a developing gap in predicted ship arrivals at ports, which is beginning to cause some concern about the potential for port terminal congestion. CN will work with its customers to manage the situation as efficiently as possible, but there’s nothing CN can do on its own to control ship ordering and arrivals.”

Harris added a key issue for CN is that many of its partners in the grain handling and transportation system do not work weekends and holidays, as CN does. A key recent example – the Easter long weekend was a four-day shutdown for some facilities, effectively bringing grain assets to a halt. Of 11 grain terminals operated by WGEA members at three ports in Western Canada, only two in Vancouver consistently work seven days a week, Harris said.

Harris said CN will meet its grain customers in late summer, as it does every year, to gauge their shipping intentions for the coming year and plan the allocation of rail assets to move grain to export position.

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