Chart of Train Volume Westbound from Alberta May 2023 Wildfire Disruptions

RailState, the rail industry’s only provider of real-time rail network visibility, independently tracks all freight rail movements across Canada in real-time. 

Throughout May 2023, Alberta has endured widespread wildfires across the province, and sustained dry and windy conditions have prevented the fires from getting under control. 

The most intense fires were at the beginning of the month and led to the government of Alberta declaring a state of emergency on May 6 and the forced evacuations of hundreds of thousands of residents. 

More recently, a surge in fire activity coinciding with the May 20-22 holiday weekend, led to extremely poor air quality and smoke impacts being felt across North America.

Impact on Freight Volume

We looked into the impact these fires have had on freight rail traffic through the region. 

No trains moved westbound from Edmonton on May 6, the day the provincial government declared a state of emergency.

Traffic showed significant reductions starting on May 3. Westbound traffic averaged 15 trains per day and on May 3 daily traffic dropped to 11 trains. Volume stayed significantly lower than average until May 7. During the May 3-7 period, average daily volume westbound out of Alberta was 9.4 trains per day. 

Traffic returned to mostly normal from May 8 until May 19, maintaining average daily volume of more than 16 trains, and showed significantly increased variability heading into the holiday weekend. On May 19, only 8 trains traveled this route, on May 20, there were 23 trains (the highest daily volume in the past month), May 21 was another unusually slow day with just 11 trains, and May 22 returned to above average daily volume with 18 trains. 

We’re continuing to monitor traffic through the region and will share updates as soon as we see different trends. 

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