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Railways and ports not prepared to meet future demand says think tank

The Conference Board of Canada says accelerating volumes of commodities being shipped over the next decade will require big investments in both rail and marine infrastructure in Western Canada.

In a report released today, the agency says annual tonnage of commodities shipped by rail will grow more quickly than in the past, rising rising 30% from 200 million tonnes in 2011 to 260 million tonnes by 2025.

Wheat, forest products and energy are expected to be the main growth drivers.

The Conference Board says Canada’s shifting trading patterns are putting additional pressure on the country’s railways and ports to meet the growing demand for Canadian commodities.

It says rail corridors between the Prairies and the US and from the Prairies to British Columbia are expected to be most affected and that Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway will need to continue to invest heavily in rail infrastructure to accommodate the increased demand.

The board says ports in Central and Eastern Canada have enough capacity, but that BC ports will need to be expanded to accommodate seven million more tonnes of agricultural products by 2025.

Michael Gurney of the Port of Prince Rupert says they’re ready to meet increased demands as they already have a number of expansion projects.

The port held an update on the Fairview Container Terminal Phase 2 expansion yesterday.

The $200-million expansion will double the number of berths to two, and adds four large cranes to the terminal.

Gurney says the port released it’s Gateway 2020 report several years ago in preparation for the growth the Conference Board of Canada is forecasting.

The Fairview expansion is about 50% complete, with an expected completion date of 2017.

Once completed, the terminal will be able to handle an additional 500,000 TEUs for a total of 1.3 million.

About Gene Law

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