Canadian Pacific resumes rail movement in flooded Western Canada

Train Source: CP Rail

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. has restarted operations in British Columbia after flooding cut off the western province from the rest of the country.

“Trains are starting to move through the region again,” CP spokeswoman Salem Woodrow said by email. “But the coming days will be critical as we work to bring the supply chain back in sync.” 

A week after floods and mudslides forced evacuations, washed away sections of highways and damaged railways, British Columbia is seeking to restore transit links and the movement of goods. Gasoline sales have been rationed in parts of the province, while critical exports such as lumber and grain are backed up, unable to get to the Port of Vancouver.

Trains that got stuck en route to Vancouver when the flooding occurred are waiting to move again. The first trains carrying grain and fuel arrived Wednesday morning, according to the company. The number of rail cars idling has declined 15%, mostly due to the improvements CP has made in the Vancouver corridor, Ag Transport Coalition data show.

“They are making tremendous progress on repairing track that will connect us right through to the Alberta border and with the rest of Canada,” Transportation Minister Rob Fleming told reporters Wednesday. “This would be a very important and welcome development for goods movement for our country.”

However, a fresh set of storms off the Pacific Coast – a long stream of moisture known as an atmospheric river –threatens to hinder the recovery.

British Columbia could get as much as 300 millimeters (12 inches) of rain through next week from a series of storms that will be pouring on the region, said Paul Walker, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. 

The heaviest rain will begin Thursday and then downpours will continue through Monday, Walker said. Long-range models suggest even more rain will come after that. Each storm will add to the water coursing through the runoff system, raising the risks of floods. This also raises the risk of roads and bridges being washed out. It’s likely that mudslides will occur, especially in areas that were burned by wildfires last summer.

“They continue to get storm after storm,” Walker said. “The rivers and streams haven’t had a lot of time to go back down.”

The sole Vancouver-area refinery owned by Parkland Corp. and located in Burnaby has paused oil processing. The Trans Mountain pipeline, a key oil supplier to the plant, has remained shut for more than a week. 

Dozens of filling stations in British Columbia’s capital, Victoria, as well as Vancouver and hard-hit Chilliwack, were either out of fuel or had limited fuel options as of Wednesday, according to GasBuddy.com, which tracks service station prices in the U.S. and Canada. Trans Mountain has said it’s “optimistic” it can restore some capacity on the line by the end of the week.

Thirty locations across CP’s Thompson and Cascade subdivisions were damaged, including 20 with a “significant loss of infrastructure,” CP said. Hundreds of employees and contractors have been working to safely restore operations. 

While the resumption of rail service is positive, it’s “likely fragile given the reduced capacity and the forecast for significant rainfall expected in the coming days,” Ag Transport Coalition said. 

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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