CN to spend $40M on New Brunswick line, replacing just 2 miles of rail

·3 min read
CN Rail is upgrading parts of its infrastructure in New Brunswick as part of annual maintenance. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
CN Rail is upgrading parts of its infrastructure in New Brunswick as part of annual maintenance. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The Canadian National Railway is spending $40 million toward maintaining its infrastructure in New Brunswick, replacing the least amount of track and railroad ties in the province in five years.

Plans include replacing 2 miles (3.2 kms) of rail, installing about 7,000 railroad ties, rebuilding road surface-crossings and maintenance work on bridges and other track infrastructure, according to a news release from CN. There are about 3,250 railroad ties for every mile of track.

CN spokesperson Mathieu Gaudreault said the upgrades will improve safety in New Brunswick.

"We are providing our customers with a safe and reliable solution at a time when the fluidity of supply chains is more important than ever," he said in a statement.

CBC
CBC

The company has experienced several train derailments along portions of its New Brunswick tracks over the past few years.

Last August, a freight train derailed northwest of Moncton, putting 30 cars off the tracks and spilling potash.

Earlier that year, another derailment near Edmundston resulted in 22 cars off the tracks.

Recent maintenance

In recent years, CN's annual maintenance program has resulted in upgrades to larger portions of its New Brunswick rail lines.

It upgraded five miles in 2021, eight in 2020 and 2019 and 20 miles in 2018.

In 2014, the provincial government gave CN $25 million to keep its northern freight line running, after it faced potential closure.

New Brunswick's minister of transportation and infrastructure was not made available for an interview.

In a statement, Jill Green said she is pleased with the CN investment.

"Efficient and safe rail transportation benefits our economy by allowing the safe movement of our goods and services to New Brunswick businesses and industries along with access to both national and international markets," she said.

Passengers rail improvements unlikely

CN said it couldn't provide details of the specific locations of the New Brunswick projects at this time. It also wouldn't say if the upgrades include one of its passenger lines, the Newcastle subdivision, which runs from Campbellton to the outskirts of Moncton.

Via Rail uses those CN-owned tracks to run its Ocean line service from Montreal to Halifax.

Passenger rail advocates have been pushing for upgrades to that stretch of rail, which currently require the train to travel at slower speeds between Rogersville and Bathurst.

Alexandre Silberman/CBC
Alexandre Silberman/CBC

But Ted Bartlett, a board member with the transportation advocacy group Transport Action Atlantic, said from a business perspective it make sense CN would put its money toward its profitable freight route.

"Freight is where CN's bread and butter lies, there's no question about that," he said.

The main line runs from outside of Moncton and up across the western side of the province, while the line used by Via Rail follows the eastern coast.

Bartlett said if federal and provincial governments are committed to passenger rail in the Maritimes, they should work with CN to support track upgrades.

"It takes almost two hours longer for a passenger train to get from Moncton to Campbellton and that's not acceptable, especially from a government that pretends to be all in favour of green transportation," he said.

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