Reorganizing grain service paid off, CP says

Canadian Pacific’s gauges of service to grain shippers show visible gains so far in 2011 after a retooling of the railway’s grain operations, the company reports.

Empty order fulfillment, a metric that highlights rail car availability, is up 19 per cent, or 11,000 units, in the crop year-to-date compared to the year-earlier period, the Calgary company said Monday.

CP this year "simplified how it serves its Canadian grain network" by grouping over 165 Prairie grain elevators into eight separate operating hubs, the company said.

Within the hubs, CP said, it committed locomotives and a dedicated, scheduled day of week service to each elevator.

Cutting down its scheduling variability and increasing access to rail car supply led to a 26 per cent improvement in on-time performance, CP said.

That, in turn, allows its customers to "better optimize their grain elevator operations through more effective delivery co-ordination and manpower planning."

CP noted it has also launched a Grain Car Request System (GCRS), through which grain handling customers can request cars, track shipments and view their request status and service plans "online and in real time."

"Sustained improvements"

"We have worked in conjunction with our grain customers to facilitate a strong network of modern grain elevators located on the Canadian Prairies that are capable of loading 112-car unit trains within a 24-hour period, adding significantly to the efficiency of the grain handling and transportation system," Steve Whitney, CP’s vice-president for agribusiness, said in a release.

"Our results confirm that by eliminating the variability in grain service scheduling, we not only provide better communications and service to our customers but unlock capacity across the entire logistics chain.

"Based on these types of sustained improvements, CP is positioned to continue to deliver year-over-year improvements, such as playing a larger role in the all- rail eastern export program this winter," he said.

CP, in its third quarter ending Sept. 30, booked grain revenue of $290.6 million (down 3.2 per cent from the year-earlier period) on 116,900 carloads of grain (down 2.5 per cent) for per-carload revenue of $2,486 (down 0.7 per cent).

The company had said this summer it was working to earn back consumer confidence following a rash of service disruptions this year due to heavy snow and then flooding. Rising floodwaters hit some of the company’s lines in Saskatchewan and North Dakota about a week after that statement.

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