CPR almost perfect in on-time performance with transcontinental intermodal service

by Canadian Shipper

Canadian Pacific Railway reports it has achieved a 99 per cent sustained on-time performance with its transcontinental east-west intermodal trains since introducing the latest component of its Genesis train operating method on May 1.

Genesis is a way of moving long, heavy trains, bypassing intermediate rail terminals to improve service reliability. CPR launched Genesis in late 1999 and has been expanding and refining it. The latest refinement is to set scheduled trip plans for trains, keep the trains on schedule, and once the freight is delivered, get the cars and locomotives back into service faster.

“We are proving that reducing expenses and improving customer service are not mutually exclusive concepts,” said Robert Ritchie, President and Chief Executive Officer of CPR. “From virtually day one of this latest initiative, our on-time performance vaulted and stayed up. Our novel approach to running a railway is paying off for everyone. Satisfied customers mean growth.”

Phase one focuses solely on intermodal trains. At the end of July, it will be expanded to other train types.

Intermodal trains carry mostly time-sensitive retail products destined for store shelves. Consistent on-time delivery reduces costs for customers because it reduces their need to carry extra inventory to make up for delayed shipments.

Key to the improved on-time performance are new computer applications that produce trip plans for individual shipments, and provide an open window on the shipments across the railway. In yards, which are the highest risk areas for train delays, new applications deliver the trip plans to managers and identify what must occur to complete each trip on time.

The Genesis train operating method owes its success to CPR’s aggressive capital investment from 1997 to 1999. The railway acquired a fleet of high-performance locomotives and larger freight cars, built new intermodal terminals and expanded existing ones, modernized freight yards to speed freight flow-through, expanded track capacity, and adopted leading-edge information technology. The investments cleared the way for operating long, heavy trains on a scheduled basis.

The new locomotives are so reliable that some of CPR’s longest intermodal trains are being pulled with just two engines, the company says.

“We’ve retired older, less reliable locomotives and freight cars that are more costly to use. CPR now has a smaller but more productive asset base and with Genesis, we’re making these assets sweat," Ritchie said.

Intermodal traffic has grown faster than any other business segment and now is CPR’s largest single revenue earner, generating 23 per cent of total revenue. This year, CPR is expanding intermodal terminal capacity again. The biggest single project is a 55-per-cent capacity expansion at Vaughan Intermodal Facility in the Toronto area, which will bring capacity there to 350,000 container handlings per year. Vaughan is a key gateway for domestic, trans-border and international intermodal traffic.

A recent survey of the largest shippers in the United States ranked CPR as having the best on-time performance and transit times among the largest railways.

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