Port expansion to boost Canadian National traffic

Port expansion to boost Canadian National traffic

Canadian National Railway is expecting a big boost in traffic through an expansion of the Port of Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

Chief Executive Hunter Harrison said Thursday that a planned container terminal at the Pacific port will give both CN and the federal port a competitive advantage over other railways and West Coast ports.

The Prince Rupert Port Authority expects to announce within 60 days a partner to build a container terminal to handle imports from Asia. The province of British Columbia has also committed $17 million to the terminal project, according to published reports.

Harrison said CN's investment at Prince Rupert is partly dependent on getting federal approval for its $1 billion takeover of BC Rail, announced last November. It is under review by Canadian regulators.

If the controversial BC Rail deal is approved, CN is already committed to spend $15 million to modify its line between Prince Rupert and its mainline west of Edmonton, to clear doublestack trains.

"There's a huge opportunity in Prince Rupert," Harrison said in a presentation to analysts.

Intermodal traffic accounts for 19 per cent of CN revenues.

Harrison said that while the intermodal business is growing, it has to improve margins to achieve the profits of its other divisions.