(August 24, 2023) – RailState, the rail industry’s only provider of real-time rail network visibility, independently tracks all freight rail movements across Canada.
RailState has looked in more detail at how CN and CPKC handled the August 18 traffic interruption in the Fraser River Canyon Directional Running Zone caused by the Kookipi Creek Fire.
Trains traveling through the DRZ were delayed a day or more and wildfire activity is contributing to other delays throughout the region.
“This was a short but significant delay and we’re seeing other wildfire-related delays in BC,” said John Schmitter, co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer at RailState. “With wildfires intensifying, backlogs from the BC ports strike still remaining, and the looming grain harvest, the Canadian rail network is under a lot of pressure. For shippers with some optionality, it’s critical to know what’s going on and identify opportunities.”
Travel through the directional running zone from Heffley (CN) and Monte Creek (CPKC) to Chilliwack typically takes less than a day. The time more than doubled as a result of the shutdown on August 18.
For trains passing through Heffley on August 17 and headed to the Port of Vancouver region, the travel time rose to nearly 2 full days. Trains passing Monte Creek on the 17th saw travel times increase threefold from the expected travel time. While delayed, trains were held in the Kamloops area.
The average westbound travel time through the DRZ is now back to the normal range.
The most notable change in volume is in intermodal. Westbound intermodal train volume increased by more than 1.5 trains per day during August 19-23 compared to the prior week.
On average, commodity trains saw longer travel times than intermodal and manifest trains.
Eastbound travel times did not grow as much as westbound travel times. This is likely due to trains being held closer to Vancouver before entering the DRZ.
As with westbound traffic, the largest change in eastbound volume is in intermodal. There are an additional 1.3 trains per day carrying 389 more containers than the prior week. 83.8% of these containers are international.
Only three eastbound trains started through the DRZ on the evening of August 18, all on CPKC. No eastbound CN trains moved on August 18.
The railroads have been deploying fire suppression cars regularly throughout British Columbia. RailState’s sensors capture train images throughout the rail network – the images below are fire suppression cars seen at Kissick, Drynoch, and Chase during intense wildfire activity over the past week.
These fire suppression cars were also seen moving on the network in early May, when widespread wildfires in Alberta caused an official state of emergency.
Wildfires in the Fraser Canyon area continue to burn and remain a threat to various communities. An evacuation order has been called for the Lytton area and Highway 1 remains closed to traffic.
Although rail traffic through the directional running zone has largely returned to normal in recent days, the railroads are actively working to keep the route secure for rail traffic. In the early morning hours today there was a delay in traffic as a short train with a fire suppression car moved through the Drynoch area.
An eastbound intermodal train traveled through Drynoch at 8:23 PM PDT on August 23. Four hours later, the train with a CP fire suppression car (pictured below) traveled westbound, against the flow of normal traffic on this route, at 12:19 AM PDT on August 24. The next eastbound loaded train came through at 2:08 AM PDT on August 24, followed closely by a manifest train and two intermodal trains, all within the next hour.
A 6-hour gap in eastbound trains is not unheard of for the DRZ but these service delays and additional resource strains from increased fire protection and maintenance needs highlight the challenges the railroads face.
RailState will provide additional rail network updates on any disruptions as well as reports on commodity and traffic trends.
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