COMPETITION WATCH: Railway carloadings post record for third quarter

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OTTAWA, Ont. — Railways had an unexpectedly busy summer in 2005, as they loaded a record tonnage of cargo for the third quarter when their activity generally cools off.

Driven by strong economic growth, particularly in Asia, Canada’s railways loaded more than 71.9 million metric tonnes of goods between July and September, according to Statistics Canada. This was 3.2 million tonnes higher than the previous third-quarter record set in 2000.

“With such high loadings, rail activity this summer has defied trends set throughout the previous five years, in part reflecting the efforts deployed by the rail companies to enhance the overall efficiency of the rail network,” the government agency reported in its Daily Bulletin.

Coal and iron ore carloadings still led the list of freight in the third quarter. However, railways loaded 4.1 million tonnes of lumber, up substantially from 3.5 million tonnes during the third quarter last year.

This increase was partly a result of the many large reconstruction projects occurring around the world in the wake of this year’s numerous natural disasters.

At the same time, railways received just over 6.5 million tonnes of freight from the United States. This was a 2.9% gain from the third quarter of 2004.

The favourable third-quarter results occurred despite declines in shipments between August and September, which was unusual because September loadings are typically higher than those in August.

On a monthly basis, the non-intermodal portion of freight totalled 21.7 million tonnes in September, down 3.6% from August. About 275,000 railcars were required to ship all of September’s non-intermodal freight.

Loadings of intermodal freight, that is, containers and trailers hauled on flat cars, amounted to 2.3 million tonnes, down 2.0% from August.

Freight coming from the United States, either destined for or passing through Canada, fell 3.0% to 2.2 million tonnes.

On a year-over-year basis, non-intermodal tonnage was up 11.6% from September last year. Intermodal traffic rose 4.1%, while traffic received from south of the border was up 4.4%.

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