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INDUSTRY PULSE: Labor dispute takes bite out of railway carloading

OTTAWA, Ont. -- A labor dispute and inclement weather cut the volume of summertime business for Canadian railways,...

OTTAWA, Ont. — A labor dispute and inclement weather cut the volume of summertime business for Canadian railways, the latest data on carloadings from Statistics Canada indicates.

In July, railways carried 21.8 million metric tonnes of freight, down 8.7% from June.

The labour dispute by iron ore workers in Labrador and Quebec (who have been on strike since July) and inclement weather (which delayed the Prairie wheat harvest) had the largest impact on loadings. Traditionally, wheat provides a boost for loadings in July.

Non-intermodal freight totalled 19.5 million tonnes compared with 21.6 million tonnes in June. About 244,000 carloads were required to carry the freight.

Iron ore loadings fell by more than 50% from June, and wheat, nickel, potash, cars and freight motor vehicle loadings were also down.

Loadings of nickel and potash, as well as cars and freight motor vehicles, traditionally decline in July as many workers take their holidays at that time.

The intermodal portion, that is, containers and trailers hauled on flat cars, showed almost no change over June. Intermodal loadings totalled a little more than 2.3 million tonnes in July and accounted for 9.7% of the total tonnage loaded.

Freight arriving from the United States, either destined for or passing through Canada, totalled 2.2 million tonnes, up 2.5% over June.

Traffic received from Canadian connections, also affected by the iron ore dispute, fell 11.3% from June.
Compared with July last year, non-intermodal tonnage decreased 2.0%, intermodal traffic increased 3.7% and traffic received from the United States rose 11.3%.
On a year-to-date basis, the cumulative total for non-intermodal loadings for the first seven months of 2004 grew 9.5% compared with the same period last year. Tonnage grew from 132.4 million tonnes in 2003 to 144.9 million tonnes in 2004.

Intermodal loadings increased 3.1% to 15.6 million tonnes while traffic received from the United States was up 3.7% over the same period to 15.7 million tonnes.

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