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CN's substantial investments in its U.S. Midwest operations, particularly involving the former Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway (EJ&E) line, are keeping the Class I's network fluid in the area, said CN President and Chief Executive Officer Claude Mongeau yesterday at the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers winter meeting in Oak Brook, Ill.Over the past five years, CN has invested more than $1 billion in its Midwest operations, which has helped the railroad accommodate increased demand and free up capacity in the Chicago area for other railroads, said Mongeau. The EJ&E acquisition in 2009 transformed CN's operations in the major rail hub."The EJ&E solution allows us to seamlessly connect our five rail lines entering Chicago and to avoid congested inner city rail corridors," said Mongeau. "This is a clear gain for CN, but it also frees up capacity for other carriers on the Belt Railway of Chicago and Indiana Harbor Belt — a benefit for the entire greater Chicago rail network."CN's Midwestern presence is the product of a series of rail acquisitions and investments that have extended the Class I's network reach south, north and west of Chicago, as well as around the city, he said. Because about 25 percent of the railroad's freight traffic touches the city, CN strives to focus on network efficiencies, close collaboration with other freight and passenger railroads, and customer service in and around Chicago.Transborder U.S.-Canada traffic also is a major market for CN. Northbound traffic has grown faster than southbound freight over the past five years, said Mongeau."At the core of our agenda is CN's commitment to operational and service excellence whose purpose is to help our customers compete better in their end markets," he said.