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Rail Disruptions

In addition to the wet weather that has plagued the start of this year, 2020 has already had its fair share of rail disruptions. Issues began in early February with a mudslide that washed out part of a rail track in the interior of BC. While there were no injuries, service was disrupted until crews were able to repair the affected area on 5 February.

Before operations could return to normal, further disruptions were caused by Coastal Gaslink protesters across the lower mainland and in areas around Prince Rupert, Kitimat and the East Coast. According to ITN Logistics the “blockades represent a solidarity action with the pipeline opposition movement and are not related CN’s activities.” Regardless of the motive, the movement of goods throughout Canada’s rail network has been negatively impacted. As of February 11, orders have been issued by the appropriate Courts to prohibit protesters from interfering with rail operations. Unfortunately, the orders have had little effect to date. CN has been forced to park trains across Canada but due to limited space further decisions will need to be made. On February 13 the first announcement of shutdowns has been confirmed as traffic to Prince Rupert has been stopped. Further traffic to Western Canada from the US and Eastern Canada has been temporarily stopped as well. As a Port serviced entirely by the CN rail line, Prince Rupert has been significantly impacted by the barricades and delays have been observed in Vancouver as well. Going forward, it is likely CN will need to consider shutting down further portions of their network.

Additionally, a mandatory speed restriction for oil rail cars has been implemented after a derailment in Saskatchewan which caused delays to other rail traffic. The derailment, which occurred on February 6, took place outside of Guernsey, Saskatchewan. The Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation and will be issuing a report once they have their findings. The slow down initially issued by Canadian Pacific railway has been reinforced by a Transport Canada Ministerial Order. February 7 marked the start of the slowdown which is scheduled to last for 30 days.