A CN Rail executive is meeting with Saskatchewan producers and business leaders to discuss difficulties getting grain shipped this winter and how similar backlogs can be avoided in the future.
Farmers have been unable to get their crops to market with railway companies unable to keep up with demand.
Sean Finn, chief operating officer of CN Rail, spoke about the issue Tuesday on Gormley. He admitted the company should have been better prepared.
Finn said CN had seen six straight quarters of negative growth and predicted only three per cent growth for 2017. The actual growth ended being between 11 and 20 per cent.
“We didn’t come into this season well-prepared,” Finn said. “Not enough crews to face the demand, not enough locomotives and typically railways are good at planning and forecasting but in this case we didn’t do so.”
Finn said they hired more employees in September when they realized the growth would be sustained — he said the problem is it takes about a year to get new workers trained and ready to run trains.
New locomotives also take about a year to arrive once they’ve been ordered.
The CN Rail executive is expected to meet Tuesday with members from both the Saskatchewan and Regina Chambers of Commerce as well as farmers and members of the agriculture industry.
Finn said the company is now focused on two things: making up for the backlog and better long-term planning.
“That goes about making sure the supply chain, all the players exchange information on an ongoing basis and we look forward to do so going forward.”
Finn also noted CN will be investing in its tracks with an increase in capital spending from $2.7 billion to $3.2 billion.
He said money will be used to increase track capacity between Edmonton and Winnipeg.