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Railway carloadings, January 2020

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Released: 2020-03-25

Railway carloadings, total tonnage

30.6 million tonnes

January 2020

-5.5% decrease

(12-month change)

Canadian railways transported 30.6 million tonnes of freight in January, down 5.5% from January 2019. This marked the fifth consecutive month of year-over-year declines.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Railway carloadings, total tonnage shipped
Railway carloadings, total tonnage shipped

Non-intermodal loadings declined 7.5% to 24.1 million tonnes compared with the same period in 2019. The largest decrease was reported for coal (-26.9% or -847 000 tonnes), reflecting harsher winter weather conditions in some parts of the country, notably British Columbia, as well as evolving global market conditions.

Iron ores and concentrates declined (-8.6% or -416 000 tonnes) year over year in January with lingering disruptions in production stemming from a mine shutdown in mid-September 2019. Potash also declined (-20.7% or -393 000 tonnes) from January 2019 because of production cutbacks and temporary mine shutdowns due to weak global demand.

Intermodal freight traffic decreased 1.5% from the same period in 2019 to 3.0 million tonnes.

Freight traffic coming from US rail connections rose by 5.7% in January to 3.5 million tonnes.

Possible impacts on Canadian railway carloadings

There are many factors that influence the volume of freight moved by rail in Canada, such as seasonality in terms of both commodity movements with crops and weather that can affect railway operations with respect to train length and speed. In addition there are cyclical economic conditions and one-time events such as labour disruptions.

Statistics Canada is closely monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through its economic programs including railway carloadings. While the full impacts of the virus will become clearer following the analysis of February data, railway performance indicators could be an early signal stemming from idle Asian factories or other supply chain disruptions.

Transport Canada's rail transportation performance indicators found that during the second week of January 2020, the average number of container-loaded cars waiting for export was up and the railcar waiting period (also known as dwell-time) also began to increase. These increases coincided with the lower imports (-12.1%) and exports (-7.8%) to China in January 2020, reported in the Canadian international merchandise trade data.


  Note to readers

Data from January to December 2019 have been revised. Data in this release are not seasonally adjusted.

The Monthly Railway Carloadings Survey collects data, including the number of rail cars, tonnage, units and 20-feet equivalent units, from railway transporters operating in Canada that provide for-hire freight service.

The Transportation Data and Information Hub, a website launched by Statistics Canada and Transport Canada, provides Canadians with online access to comprehensive statistics and measures on the country's transportation sector.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

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