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INDUSTRY PULSE: Railway tonnage down slightly in June

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Canadian railways carried slightly less tonnage in June than they did the month before, with bulk c...

OTTAWA, Ont. — Canadian railways carried slightly less tonnage in June than they did the month before, with bulk commodities such as mineral ores and grains showing the biggest declines, Statistics Canada reports.

Railways hauled 23.9 million metric tonnes of freight in June, down 3.3% from May.

A combination of factors was behind June’s slowdown, ranging from the appreciation of the Canadian dollar, which has a potential to lower exports, to forest fires in many provinces that interrupted rail traffic. Strikes and mill closures also played a role,: according to the statistical agency.

The non-intermodal portion of goods loaded on rail totalled 21.4 million metric tonnes, down 3.6% from May. Iron ores and concentrates, fertilizers, potash, sulphur and other non-metallic minerals had the biggest impact on the decline.

Railways carried 2.4 million tonnes in intermodal, or containerized, freight, which was virtually unchanged from May. Even so, intermodal freight was a record high for the month of June, as it was also for the individual months of March, April and May this year.

Again, the exchange rate most likely had an impact on loadings of containerized goods, as these often consist of imported merchandise.

On a year-over-year basis, containerized freight in June was 7.0% higher than it was in June 2005, a fourth consecutive month where tonnage was greater than in 2005. Non-intermodal tonnage was down 3.9% from June last year.

Railways reported a 10.0% decline in traffic received from the United States in June, the continuation of a monthly pattern that has existed for several years. Although the May to June decline varies from year to year, traffic received from the United States has never increased between these two months.

On a quarterly basis, intermodal (containerized) loadings between April and June hit nearly 7.3 million metric tonnes, up 3.4% compared with the second quarter last year. This level was a record high for the second quarter.

In contrast, second-quarter non-intermodal freight fell 1.0% to 65.1 million metric tonnes. Non-intermodal second-quarter freight has declined for two consecutive years.

Traffic received from the United States in the second quarter was slightly higher than for the first three months of 2006, but about the same as second-quarter results last year.

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