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CN announced yesterday it will spend $500 million (Canadian dollars) to upgrade infrastructure and improve safety on Western Canada feeder lines that are handling growing freight volumes.The multiyear program will improve lines in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan that are handling rising volumes of industrial products, natural resources and energy-related commodities, CN officials said in a press release.This year, CN will allocate about $100 million for work on the northern Alberta branch lines to ensure the network can handle future volume growth in the Peace River region. Work will include installation of heavier rail, crushed rock ballast and new ties. More information about CN's maintenance-of-way program this year is included in Progressive Railroading's 2015 MOW Spending Report.
"CN sees significant long-term potential in its customer base located on its Western Canada feeder network," said CN President and Chief Executive Officer Claude Mongeau. "We want to provide our customers with the capacity for continued efficient freight transportation services that increase their competitiveness in North American and global markets, as well as ensure our rail infrastructure is as safe as possible."Volumes in Western Canada have increased by more than 50 percent over the past five years, according to CN. Considering this growth, CN also has made infrastructure improvements in its Edmonton-Winnipeg mainline corridor by installing sections of double track, extending sidings to accommodate longer more efficient trains and improving major classification yards.The Class I's announcement follows a recent string of derailments. A report by the Reuters news agency last month indicated CN's safety record had "deteriorated sharply" in 2014. In the news reports, the railroad attributed the situation partly on increasing traffic, especially in Western Canada.
Meanwhile, CN also announced yesterday that locomotive engineers in Canada represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference have ratified a new, three-year contract.Retroactive to Jan. 1, the agreement provides wage increases and benefit "improvements" for 1,800 engineers, CN officials said in a press release.