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Industry Achievement
Intermodal Operations (2004)
As a technology that has revolutionized the railway industry in Canada over the past several years, intermodal freight transport truly deserves recognition and celebration within the Canadian Railway Hall of Fame.

CN Intermodal

Both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway have experienced remarkable growth in intermodal movement during the past five years. It is now the biggest single commodity moved by rail, and continues to be the railways’ fastest growing line of business.

Today, intermodal freight primarily consists of high-value, time-sensitive shipments moving in containers both within North America, and between North America and other continents. The technology that was pioneered through “piggybacking” a standard trailer on a rail flat car has indeed come a long way.

CN and CPR divide their intermodal business into two segments — international (import/export) and domestic. The international import traffic is represented primarily by containerized traffic moving from the ports of Halifax, Montreal and Vancouver to inland destinations across Canada and the United States.

CP IntermodalMajor financial investments have been made by both national railways in the construction of intermodal facilities to encourage future growth.

For their domestic intermodal markets, CN and CPR operate long-haul domestic train services that, together with strategically-placed intermodal terminals, ensure highly competitive transit times, service reliability, and door-to-door delivery ability for customers. The co-operation of the short-haul truck mode and the railways has resulted in the extension of rail’s reach to many retail customers who could not otherwise access the economic value of rail transportation.

Over the long term, containerized trade of consumer products on a global scale is expected to continue to rise and is likely to match recent annual growth rates. North American consumer spending and the continued increase in imports for Asian countries, and specifically China will drive this growth.

Domestic intermodal traffic growth is also expected to continue due to a general increase in consumer spending, new gains in the Canadian transcontinental food business, and growth in the Canada–United States and Mexico trans-border market.

Canada’s railways stand ready to face the challenge. In 2003, for example, CPR implemented special “Locotrol III” on intermodal trains — or mid-train power controlled by the head-end train crew — as another efficiency measure in the operation of intermodal services.

This is a significant development that illustrates the growth of intermodal traffic, with the railway using technology that in the past was used on long and heavy bulk trains such as coal, potash, grain and sulphur. Now CPR is taking advantage of longer and heavier intermodal trains as well — part of an innovative way to create capacity to meet the ongoing demand for intermodal services.

The growth of intermodal traffic will continue to ensure that rail also meets public policy objectives — and in particular represents a viable alternative to costly expansion of congested highway networks, and the reduction of greenhouse gases, making a positive contribution to Canada’s environment and to Canadians’ quality of life.

Photos: CN & CPR

    © 2006 The Canadian Railway Hall of Fame. All registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.