CN’s ability to serve our grain customers and stakeholders across Canada has been impeded by various and compounding circumstances outside of our control since early 2020.

 Mid-January saw extreme temperatures for approximately 10 days, which for safety reasons, forced us to shorten the length of our trains and halt overnight operations across our western network. We also experienced several outages due to torrential rain in British Columbia, which brought about rockslides and washouts in the Fraser Canyon, B.C., seriously damaging one of our mountain tunnels.  The same heavy rains resulted in vessel loading delays at Port of Vancouver, which affected the return flow of empty rail cars to inland loading points.

 Most recently, you will have heard of the illegal blockades of our tracks through much of February, affecting the ports of Prince Rupert and Vancouver and various locations in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Eastern Canada.  The illegal blockades in Ontario and Quebec forced the shutdown of our Eastern Canadian network.

 Despite these difficult operating conditions, for crop week 29, CN spotted 4146 hoppers. This is in line with CN’s winter plan maximum supply chain guidance of 4150 CN-supplied cars recognizing that demand is well above this level at the present time given the supply chain issues that we have described in this email. Over and above, we’ve also spotted 1066 private cars. We are also on pace to meet this guidance for week 30. 

 I would like to assure you that CN is focussed on returning to normal operations and moving as much grain as possible this crop year. Our recovery will take time to complete, but CN is using a disciplined approach and working well with our supply chain partners at the waterfront terminals to match grain trains to waiting vessels. Demand currently exceeds our network capacity due to the pent-up volumes created by the abovementioned challenges, however, our objective remains to meet our winter plan target of 4150 plus private cars every week.

 This has been a challenging 2019-2020 crop year for all of us but particularly for farmers, who have suffered through a very difficult harvest and continue to be impacted by trade tariffs on a number of key commodities.  CN is doing our part to recover and bring stability back to our operations, which will in turn bring stability to our customers.  I would like to thank the agriculture industry’s leadership, including CN’s Agriculture Advisory Council, for your support during this unprecedented national transportation crisis.

Sean Finn
Executive Vice-President, Corporate Services and Chief Legal Officer, CN

Sean Finn was appointed Executive Vice-President, Corporate Services and Chief Legal Officer in December 2008. He is responsible for a wide array of legal, government, regulatory, public affairs, risk mitigation and security matters. For more information please visit