Impact of new railway technology on grain transportation in western Canada

Dick, C.T. and A.M. Clayton. 2001. Impact of new railway technology on grain transportation in western Canada. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 1742: 45-53. doi:10.3141/1742-06.


The impacts on railway technical productivity, infrastructure, and costs created by the introduction of new railway technology to the movement of grain in Western Canada are evaluated. By creating a geographic information system model of the railway system and assigning grain traffic to individual railway lines, operational and maintenance parameters are determined for each railway segment under a variety of scenarios. The scenarios consider the implementation of new high-horsepower locomotives and heavier freight cars. Because four new trains can do the work of five current trains, new technology decreases the number of trains and amount of equipment required, decreasing the cost of transport. Although the new cars negatively affect the infrastructure through higher axle loads, decreases in the number of trains operated more than offset associated roadway maintenance increases. The benefits of the new technology are more apparent on Canadian Pacific than on Canadian National because of the steep grades and long trains associated with Canadian Pacific operations. Over the service life of the new technology, approximately $260 million [in Canadian dollars (C$1 = US$0.65)] will be saved. Additional benefits can be obtained by performing additional upgrades to the railway infrastructure.