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COMPETITION WATCH: Railway carloadings down in third quarter

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Canada's railways loaded less freight between July and September compared with the previous three m...

OTTAWA, Ont. — Canada’s railways loaded less freight between July and September compared with the previous three months in the wake of a big drop in five major commodities.

In total, rail freight loaded during the third quarter totalled 65 million metric tonnes, down 10.2% from the second quarter, Statistics Canada reports.

Non-intermodal freight, consisting mostly of bulk commodities, accounted for 81.5% or 58.3 million tonnes, of the total, down 11% from the second quarter. About 744,000 railway cars were required to transport the freight.

Five commodity groupings combined for an overall decrease of 6.6 million tonnes: wheat; potash; iron ores and concentrates; coal; and lumber. A major factor was a labour dispute in Quebec which brought loadings of iron ores and concentrates down by 4.6 million tonnes.

Loadings of intermodal freight, that is, containers and trailers hauled on flat cars hit 6.7 million tonnes, down 2.5% from the second quarter. Trailers on flat cars accounted for only 5.8% of intermodal traffic in the third quarter, down from 7.6% in the same three months of last year.

Freight from the United States hit 6.5 million tonnes, up 8.6% in the third quarter compared with the same three months last year. The increasing strength of the Canadian dollar versus the US dollar partly explains this rise.

On a monthly basis, railways loaded 24 million tonnes of freight in September, roughly the same as in August.
Non-intermodal freight in September was unchanged at 19.5 million tonnes.

Snow storms and an early frost in the Prairies damaged wheat and other crops, cutting wheat loadings in September to less than half those of August. However, fresh, chilled or dried vegetables were at their highest levels since 1999. Canola loadings were back up after a big drop in August but remain far below loadings of previous years.

Intermodal loadings in September rose 2.9% to 2.3 million tonnes from August. They accounted for 9.4% of the total tonnage.

Freight arriving from the United States, either destined for or passing through Canada, totalled 2.2 million tonnes, up 2.6% from August.

On a year-to-date basis, non-intermodal loadings for the first nine months of 2004 increased 7.2% compared with the same period last year. Intermodal loadings were up 1.7%, while traffic received from the United States rose 4.2%.

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