Share this page

2018 Year in review

Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future

Investment and innovation marked 2019 at CN - in every aspect of our business. Throughout the year, we celebrated accomplishments and milestones for the CN team, our investors, our partners and our customers to be proud of as we build for a sustainable future. Last year also brought with it CN’s 100th anniversary, an opportunity to look back on 100 years of growth, teamwork and transportation excellence.

Our sincere thanks go out to our CN family, partners, and customers whose ongoing commitment and collaboration is key to our success. We’re proud to work with you - in 2020 and beyond.

Underscoring Safety

No matter what we’re moving, where we’re going or what time it is - safety is the No. 1 priority for CN.

Among CN’s investments for 2019 was the acquisition of new GE locomotives optimized with new safety technology like: Trip Optimizer; an energy management system that accurately regulates the speed of a train by automatically controlling locomotive throttle or dynamic brake and Distributed Power, which improves braking and train handling.

CN also began rolling out vital safety technology, like Autonomous Track Inspection cars and Automated Inspection Portals to ensure CN’s fleet and network are constantly being evaluated for optimal safety.

Rail Safety Week is an annual event devoted entirely to safety education and encouraging communities to commit to stronger rail safe practices. CN Police Service (CNPS) speak to communities across Canada and the United States, raising awareness about the dangers of trespassing on railway tracks and disregarding railway safety signs and devices at level crossings. Over the last year, 156 communities across CN’s network signed resolutions or proclamations in supporting Rail Safety Week. This was an increase of 28% over 2018.

CN employees are among the greatest advocates for safety education, speaking to over 300,000 children and teachers across the network every year and 2019 was no different.

We also continued to work alongside customers to promote safety at their facilities and celebrate those who commit to safety practices. In May, CN gave 137 customers Safe Handling Awards . The awards are presented to customers who load freight cars with dangerous goods and meet strict standards for the safe handling and shipment of regulated products.

Investments in Our Network

This year, CN’s capital program totalled a record C$3.9 billion , with a focus on investing in the renewal of a more efficient and reliable locomotive fleet (154 new in 2019), 560 new grain hopper rail cars and adding network capacity up to 73 miles of new double track to accommodate growth and deploying innovative technology in all areas of the business.

CN’s 2019 capital program built on the $3.5 billion we spent in 2018, bringing our two-year investment total to $7.5 billion.

Some of the investment highlights across our Canadian network in 2019 included:

  • British Columbia, $345 million. Multi-year initiatives to increase capacity at the Port of Vancouver in collaboration with the Government of Canada and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, replacement of approximately 115 miles of rail and installation of more than 210,000 new railroad ties
  • Alberta, $370 million. Construction of new track in priority areas, replacement of more than 90 miles of rail and installation of approximately 210,000 new railroad ties.
  • Saskatchewan, $245 million. Construction of new track in priority areas, replacement of approximately 66 miles of rail and installation of approximately 260,000 new railroad ties.
  • Manitoba, $120 million. Construction of 6.3 miles of double track near Exira, west of Portage la Prairie, replacement of more than 35 miles of rail and installation of approximately 59,000 new railroad ties.
  • Ontario, $320 million. Investments in a satellite intermodal facility near CN’s Brampton intermodal terminal to provide additional capacity; intermodal equipment and infrastructure at CN’s Brampton Intermodal Terminal to serve growing businesses; facility improvements at CN’s Toronto auto compound.
  • Quebec, $245 million. Installation of more than 42 miles of new rail and installation of more than 155,000 railroad ties.
  • New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, $50 million. Installation of new track and railroad ties.

CN also invested $696 million in our U.S. network in 2019. Some of the investment highlights included: investments in the Positive Train Control (PTC) system, completed ahead of schedule, investing in a multi-year project to rebuild the two-mile-long bridge over the spillway near the southwest shore of Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana, adding capacity to Joliet Intermodal Terminal and strengthening our network with new track and important safety maintenance.

Strengthening Port Partnerships

Railroads and ports are intrinsically linked. The movement of cargo from ships to rail and vice versa requires the utmost communication and cooperation to facilitate the smooth, efficient flow of cargo.

We’re proud to work alongside our port partners and celebrate their successes as we reflect on our own. This year, the Port of Quebec unveiled plans for a new intermodal terminal with an opening scheduled for 2024. CN, Hutchison Ports and the Port of Quebec are working together to pioneer new import/export supply chain routes between Asia, the Mediterranean and Europe and central Canada and the U.S. Midwest. Exclusively served by CN, this brand new, state-of-the-art container terminal is set to become a cornerstone of this deep-water, year-round port with capacity for 700K TEUs.

It was a year of major investments for our port partners.

Port of Prince Rupert was granted $153.7 million through the National Trade Corridors Fund to support critical trade infrastructure projects to facilitate growth and enable further trade development at the port. Part of that investment will support rail infrastructure required to service the Ridley Island Export Logistics Platform project. The rail infrastructure will make way for a large-scale bulk transload facility, a large-scale breakbulk transload facility, and an integrated off-dock container yard.

Also at the Port of Prince Rupert, Ray-Mont Logistics announced a new, innovative, high tech facility for bagging plastic pellets in containers. The facility became operational in the summer of 2019. The facility improves the speed and efficiency of plastic pellet exports in containers for producers in Alberta served by CN.

From coast-to-coast, our port partners are making investments to strengthen their facilities and deliver superior service to our mutual customers. In 2019, it was announced that the Port of Halifax will be getting $47.5 million in government funding to increase capacity and improve rail lines within the facility. The Port of Vancouver received $102 million, including $12.2 million to improve road and rail traffic operations and develop new rail-serviced bulk export marine terminals within the Fraser Surrey Port Lands.

CN-year-in-review   Reinforcing a Strong Supply Chain Network

Strong partnerships and solid communication are at the heart of supply chain. CN works alongside our customers and partners to extend our service offering and reach, building a stronger end-to-end supply chain.

In March, CN acquired TransX, a long-standing supply chain partner with CN. The acquisition of TransX enables growth in CN’s refrigerated transportation business, as well as enhances CN’s overall reach and service to customers.

Together, CN and CSX announced a new collaborative intermodal service offering between CN’s greater Montreal & Southern Ontario areas, and the CSX-served ports of Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey and the New York City metropolitan area. This new service offering was created in response to customer demand, giving customers better access to metropolitan hubs like Montreal and Toronto.

In July, CN and GM unveiled an expanded partnership as GM became the first customer to occupy CN’s new Autoport facilities in Vancouver and Minneapolis. Both compounds will provide additional capacity, vehicle throughput and timely deliveries for GM and its customers throughout the northern Midwest and British Columbia.

We also added a new intermodal terminal to CN’s network in 2019. Regina Intermodal Terminal , in partnership with Intermobil, officially opened for business in the fall. This state-of-the-art facility connects southern Saskatchewan to the global market, offering competitive transit times to key ports and hubs. This addition to CN’s network will open new opportunities for our grain customers, expanding our reach from a key hub of Canada’s grain production.

In December, CN and Teck Resources Limited announced a long-term rail agreement to significantly increase shipment volumes of steelmaking coal from Teck’s four B.C. operations between Kamloops and Neptune Terminals, and other west coast ports. The agreement runs from April 2021 to December 2026. With it, CN is investing more than $125 million to enhance rail infrastructure and support increased shipment volumes to Neptune Terminals.

CN also renewed intermodal agreements, in 2019, with container shipping lines Evergreen and Cosco.


Rail is the most sustainable way to move cargo over land. CN takes pride in implementing eco-friendly initiatives wherever possible and empowers employees to be sustainability leaders.

Advances in CN’s sustainability initiatives paid off in 2019, with metrics to prove it. Our Q3 fuel efficiency set an all-time record with a 4% improvement over Q3, 2018. That means CN moved 4% more tonnage the same distance with the same amount of fuel, alleviating the emission of almost 50,000 tonnes of CO2. That is the equivalent to powering 12,000 homes for one year.

In 2019, CN was given the following designations for committing to sustainable policies, improving fuel efficiency and supporting greener communities. CN is the only railroad to be recognized consistently year after year.

CN’s commitment to a greener future extends beyond daily operations. This year, CN unveiled landmark donations to support more sustainable communities through tree planting. In addition to donating $1 million to Tree Canada, earmarked for the tree canopy in Winnipeg, CN’s EcoConnexions program facilitated the donation of 120,000 trees across Canada and the United States. We’ve planted 2 million trees so far since the program started, the only company outside of the forest products industry to do so.

A core component of this program is the Partnership Program. CN surveys customers and partners to analyze their sustainability efforts and awards the designation of EcoConnexions Partner to organizations who prioritize eco-friendly initiatives. This year, CN recognized 45 partners.

 Record Crop Movement and Grain Network Growth

During the first 18 weeks of the crop year, CN set both an all time record month and an all time record week. In October, the CN team moved 2.8 million metric tonnes (MMT) of grain and during the week of October 13-19 alone, CN moved 0.685MMT.

The previous record, set in April, 2019, was 2.7 MMT. CN also saw a record December for grain. It was the second-best December on record, with 2.45 MMT moved vs 2.5 MMT last year.

These milestones were reached despite a slow start to the crop year due to adverse weather, international trade restrictions and an 8 day labour stoppage in November. The strike prevented CN from accepting any new orders during week 17 as CN was only operating at approximately 10% of overall capacity. By the second week of December (week 19), CN returned to shipping at peak levels, as well as taking on all customer hopper demand for the second and third weeks of December.

Between 2018 and 2019, an additional 14 train-ready grain elevators were built on CN’s network. Of the 30 new grain elevators built in Western Canada since 2015, 21 are located on CN’s network. Grain operators in the Prairies are placing their confidence in CN as CN increases capacity and builds incentive programs to benefit customers.

CN’s Winter Ready Program encourages investment in infrastructure that allows shippers to have a loaded unit train charged with air and ready to go. By the end of this year, over 60 of CN’s 70-plus unit train loaders will have taken advantage of this win-win Ready Train solution – saving up to 12 hours in cycle time in the coldest winter conditions.

With our grain partners, CN launched an Agricultural Advisory Council . The Council is composed of 10 representatives from the agricultural sector as well as from CN and meets on a quarterly basis to facilitate stronger communication between CN and the agriculture sector and act as a forum for feedback on CN’s grain plan, Winter Plan and discuss important policy issues facing the industry.

 A Culture of Innovation

Technology is a catalyst for growth. Finding creative solutions for common problems through technology is what sets CN apart. We leverage technology in every area of our business.

In 2019, CN began deploying Automated Inspection Portals (AIP) across our network. This technology, used in conjunction with live monitoring, can help CN inspectors efficiently detect a wide variety of mechanical defects and proactively identify railcars needing maintenance. These portals are able to inspect and assess freight cars before the train even arrives in the yard.

CN Machine Vision Project

Our ATIP technology was even recognized with a Digital Transformation Award, celebrating CN’s leadership in innovation.

CN’s Autonomous Track Inspection Program (ATIP) was deployed in 2019 ,including eight inspection boxcars that cover core routes from Chicago to Prince Rupert, New Orleans and Halifax. The system includes a fully automated rail car that employs wireless communications to test and monitor real-time geometric track parameters without interrupting normal railroad operations. It even leverages solar and generator power for no interruptions.

To help our customers work more efficiently with us as their facility is served by CN, train crews are now equipped with handheld devices as part of our Advance Arrival Notification program.This technology advises customers when the CN team is arriving at a customer’s facility and if there are any changes to the arrival plan.

 CN in the Community

The people who power CN’s network are committed to serving our customers and have a great enthusiasm for serving those in need in their communities.

This year, CN announced a new program targeted at fostering engagement in communities across our network. CN’s Railroader in Your Community Program already empowers employees and retirees who do volunteer work by donating up to $1000 to organizations in their name.

Now, June 6 will be known as CN in Your Community Day and employees will be encouraged to take that day to donate their time to volunteer work at the organization of their choice. We believe in the power of our employees to impact their community and generate positive change.

CN is firmly rooted in the communities we serve and this year marked the creation of CN Community Boards in cities like Vancouver, Halifax, Edmonton and Winnipeg to help support local, grassroots organizations with funding requests.

In 2019 together with our employees and pensioners, we have made a significant difference to thousands of Canadian and U.S. non-profit organizations, and to the people who count on their support.

 One Team - Working Together

Trains may be the vessels by which freight moves, but it’s the team behind them that really drives CN’s business.

We take enormous pride in the team of railroaders who support CN every day, whether they are out working in the field, managing operations from one of our office locations or working internationally to support CN’s global customers.

This year, CN was named one of Canada’s Top Employers. This designation recognizes CN as an employer that strives to make every day worthwhile for their employees, while adding value beyond day-to-day operations. Some of the key benefits CN was identified for includes CN’s Community Fund, which has raised more than $17.1-million over the past decade for Canadian charities supporting health and research, community well-being, children and humanitarian aid concerns; CN’s health and wellness programs and generous share purchase program.

 Celebrating CN’s History

CN was created by an Act of Parliament in Canada on June 6, 1919. For 100 years, CN has been serving Canada’s economy, from building the country to now moving over $250 billion worth of its customers’ goods annually. If you eat it, use it or drive it, chances are that CN moves it.

In 2019, CN kicked off a celebratory tour to honor the people and places who make our network what it is today. The tour was marked by donations to local health and wellness organizations, as well as tree plantings to support greener communities.

At every stop, our employees, their families and the community joined us to learn more about CN’s history, our commitment to rail safety and enjoy afternoons of fun and activities with entertainment and games.

The first leg of the tour began with locations across Canada and will continue in 2020 with more Canadian stops and some events in the U.S.A.


 Looking Ahead to 2020

As 2019 is now behind us and 2020 begins, we’re not just reflecting on the end of a year. It’s the end of a decade.

CN is investing to maintain and create capacity for future growth on our unique three coast network with investments totaling $24.8B over the past decade, which represented on average 21% of revenues, culminating with the last two years at 25% and 26% respectively.

Our team has the technology, intuition and drive to continue delivering superior service to our customers, while reinforcing our commitments to innovation, safety and sustainability every step of the way.