Bridge fire shuts down CN Rail service to Grande Prairie area for an unknown amount of time

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CN Rail says a bridge fire in northwestern Alberta is expected to shut down rail traffic in and out of the Grande Prairie area for an unknown amount of time.

The fire occurred at a large bridge on the Grand Cache subdivision near Latornell, Alta. early in the morning on Wednesday, October 5, affecting traffic between Swan Landing and the Grande Prairie, Rycroft, and Sexsmith areas.

The railway says crews are working on assessing the damage and preparing for repairs.

“It’s too early to determine what the timeline will be to restore service,” David Przednowek, CN’s assistant vice president – grain, tells RealAgriculture, in an interview on Oct. 6.

“For perspective, that bridge was almost 600 feet long and almost 40 feet high,” he says. “All I can really say at this point is we’re waiting for an update to see how long it’s going to take to get that bridge back in service…it affects not only grain but other commodities such as frac sand and everything else that wants to run in and out of there.”

CN also experienced a major outage on its mainline connecting the Prairies to the Port of Vancouver in late September.

A large sinkhole at CN’s Yale subdivision in southern B.C. shut down the corridor into Vancouver on September 20, according to the railway’s latest weekly grain report. Train speeds were also restricted as engineers monitored the site after it reopened on September 21.

The railway says the mainline outage is affecting its ability to spot grain cars at elevators in Western Canada.

“These sudden incidents require significant time to clear the staged loaded traffic that had accumulated because of the outage. This ultimately will affect the available supply of empty hoppers for next week’s grain spotting program as the outstanding traffic cannot all move at once, and CN needs to actively manage the lineup of loaded cars to avoid overwhelming terminals,” the railway said in its week eight report.

The sinkhole will also have affected CP Rail’s system as it occurred in the direction running zone in southern BC where CN and CP operate their respective tracks as a dual track, running trains in one direction on either track.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with comments from David Przednowek. The earlier version quoted a CN spokesperson saying the railway to Grande Prairie would be closed for at least a week. In a follow-up interview, Przednowek said it’s too early to determine the timeline.

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