CN's general manager for BC North was the guest speaker at the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce on May 16, and spoke about the growth the company is seeing between Prince Rupert and Prince George.
According to Doug Ryhorchuk, Prince Rupert is playing a key role in what is happening in the region.
“Prince Rupert is right at the heart of this. With a shorter distance to Asia and the increased demand for Canadian products, more and more people are wanting to ship through Prince Rupert than other ports...We're seeing it up here now more than ever, our customers are growing,” he said, noting the increased traffic going to Fairview Terminal, Ridley Terminals and Prince Rupert Grain.
“At any given time there are about 18 trains running on the tracks in BC North. We've been growing at about 20 per cent per annum over the past several years, and we expect that growth to continue.”
Along with the growth comes investment into the regional infrastructure. In 2012 CN expects to spend $47 million, with another $67 million to be spent between 2013 and 2015. This year the company will be expanding five more sidings between Prince Rupert and Prince George to maintain the speed of delivery.
“Intermodal between Prince Rupert and Chicago takes about 97 hours. In order to maintain that and attract new customers, we as a company need to perform and we know that,” said Ryhorchuk.
“There is a lot of work to do this year and a lot of work to do in the future. But with a strategic plan, we have the resources needed to meet the needs of our customers.
To carry out the increased traffic and investments, CN has been hiring quite a few people in the northwest and plan to hire many more going forward.
“Approximately 180 employees were hired in 2011 between Prince Rupert and Prince George. This year we might not reach 180, but I can tell you that we have hired 50 people so far this year, so we're not slowing down,” he said.
During the question period, Ryhorchuk addressed the lone level crossing left along the northern corridor, which is located between Prince Rupert and Terrace. However, at the moment there are no firm plans to address that issue or construct an overpass.
“I was speaking with the Ministry of Transportation before I came up here. Obviously that is a concern for us...We are looking at it with the Ministry. Is it going to happen next year? Probably not, but it is on the radar,” he said.
“I can tell you that CN is interested in addressing it.”