North America (Change)

Railways move about half the freight in this country and the blockades couldn’t come at a worse time. So far CN Rail has cancelled 400 to 500 trains but operations were already slowing. There is also a temporary speed limit on all trains carrying dangerous goods, cutting normal speeds in half. Transportation is a service. It cannot be stockpiled. A return to full operating capacity will take longer than most people realize — months probably rather than weeks. Lost opportunities have real costs both to railways and to the Canadian economy. The economic pain is magnified by the intangible costs to Canada’s reputation as a reliable supplier to world markets. If the flow of products can be interrupted, especially without a healthy lead time, then foreign buyers will protect their interests by buying elsewhere. These are the harsh realities. Let’s wish the government well in pursuing a speedy, peaceful and lasting end to the rail blockades.

Barry Prentice: The high costs of railroad blockades to Canada’s economy and reputation, February 21, 2020,