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Is the train still the way of the future in Alberta?

It’s a well-known story: the creation of Western Canada is intimately linked to railway development. What if it still is? At the start of summer, the company CN announced investments of $ 305 million for the next year in Alberta, “focused on safety and capacity to strengthen the rail network, reduce GHG emissions and promote economic growth,” read the press release.

Melody Charest

Following a request for an interview, Mathieu Gaudreault, media relations manager for CN, wrote in an email that “for 3 years, CN has invested more than $ 10 billion in its network, and more than 1.4 billion in Alberta in the last five years ”.

In the press release sent to the media, the company, which carries $ 250 trillion in goods a year, announces the two branches of its investment in Alberta: the expansion of rail lines and a maintenance program.

The planned expansion plans “include doubling the track for approximately 5 miles between Vancouver and Edmonton near Hinton.” While the maintenance program includes several axes, therefore the substitution of 71 miles of rail and “maintenance work on bridges, sanders, signaling systems and other infrastructure elements of the tracks”.

The province of Alberta is the third Canadian province with more public crossings (2,894) and is the second province in terms of crossing accidents. “By placing security at the heart of our operations and by investing heavily in our network as we are doing again this year, with $ 305 million in Alberta, we are able to operate efficiently and safely,” writes Mr. Gaudreault.

In its 2019 annual report, Moving Forward Together, available online, CN highlights the importance of safety in its practices. A “stand-alone inspection program” and new technologies are the means to fulfill this function.

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Feed Albertans, Feed the Economy

Responding to the announcement, Ric Mclver, Minister of Transportation for the Government of Alberta, says the “province is recovering from the impact of COVID-19. Investments to support our supply chain are more important than ever, By prioritizing safety to support Alberta’s economic recovery, CN is ensuring Albertans receive the goods they need every day “.

CN President and CEO Jean-Jacques Ruest writes in the annual report that the company’s mandate is “to connect customers to the markets that make them successful.” Fulfilling this mandate requires “[mettre]focus on diversifying our talent pool, using cutting-edge technologies and integrating new businesses into our supply chain ”.

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CN Company is investing $ 305M in the province of Alberta. Credit: Unsplash.

While for Prasad Panda, Minister of Infrastructure for the Government of Alberta, the company’s investment of $ 305 million, which currently engages 2,891 Albertans, will revive the economy of the province: “The Government of Alberta is committed to creating jobs and attracting investment to the province. With these plans to expand CN’s rail infrastructure in Alberta, our world-class agricultural and energy products will gain greater openness to markets in North America and around the world. ”

Calgary, Edmonton, Fort Mcmurray, Edson and Hilnton are the places where the province of Alberta hosts CargoFlo centers, distributes and stores goods.

Ally of the environment?

CN has 20,000 miles of railroad in America, 2,522 miles of which are in Alberta. Its desire is to create “a greater capacity which will encourage the use of rail for transport over long distances, thereby reducing the GHG emissions of our customers’ supply chains”.

In the “Sustainability” tab of the Railway Association of Canada website, the train is touted as “one of the greenest modes of transportation in Canada”. Rail transport reduces car traffic, but also cuts greenhouse gas emissions from trucks by 75%. “A single locomotive can carry a ton of goods over 210 kilometers with a single liter of fuel removing more than 300 trucks from our congested roads,” read the Association’s website.

The investments announced by CN are, to use the exact words of the press release, “forward-looking statements”, but Mr. Gaudreault assures us that “CN plans to invest all of these sums on its network”.