Canadian railway operator Canadian Pacific (CP) moved 25.8M tonnes of western Canadian soyabeans, grain, grain products and other non-regulated principal field crops during the 2017/18 crop season.

The total haul was up 1% when compared to the prior 2016/17 crop year and also 1% above CP’s three-year average, the firm said in a 20 August announcement.

CP reported that September 2017 was the company’s biggest-ever single month for moving grain.

CP also published on 31 July its plan on moving this season’s crop, stating that it would be closely watching crop forecasts in its service area and maintaining regular communication with farmers and supply chain partners to validate any forecasts.

“Our agricultural shippers have needs that are unique within our book of business and we believe an ongoing dialogue with those companies is essential to understanding and meeting their needs,” said Joan Hardy, CP vice president of sales and marketing for grain and fertilisers.

CP’s current estimate for western Canadian crop in the coming year – based on Statistics Canada data – stood at 70.8M tonnes, with possible carryover from the 2017/18 production bringing the total to 83.4M tonnes, 5% above than the five-year average.

However, the firm highlighted the “limited visibility” of upcoming crop sizes early in the crop year and added that the 2016/17 crop was early on forecast at 65M tonnes but actually ended up being nearly 10% higher at 71M tonnes.

Based on the current forecasts, CP planned to spot 5,500 hopper cars for each week throughout the autumn until the Port of Thunder Bay on the St Lawrence Seaway closed for the winter, after which the capacity would be lowered to 4,000 cars/week.

The company intended to spend more than CAN$1.55bn (US$1.19bn) in capital investments in 2018 to replace depleted track assets and upgrade its network.

It also planned to invest half a billion dollars to replace the low-capacity Government of Canada fleet with new high-capacity hopper cars that could carry up to 10% more grain and allow 5% more cars per train due to their shorter design, resulting in 15% more grain per train.

Additionally, CP was continuing the development of its 8,500-foot train model that could haul up to 20% more grain per train that the current 7,000-foot model and up to 44% more grain per train when combined with the new high-capacity hopper cars.