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Canadian Pacific plans to upgrade CM&Q trackage to handle premium traffic NEWSWIRE

By Bill Stephens | November 22, 2019

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NEW YORK — Canadian Pacific will upgrade Central Maine & Quebec trackage so that the route linking Montreal and Atlantic ports can handle premium intermodal and automotive traffic, Chief Marketing Officer John Brooks told the RailTrends 2019 conference on Friday.

CP announced this week that it will acquire the CM&Q from Fortress Transportation and Infrastructure Investors. Fortress invested $55 million to bring the 480-mile railroad, most of which is former CP trackage, up to 25-mph operation.

Assuming regulatory approval of the $130 million deal, CP will boost speeds on the CM&Q trackage in Quebec and Maine. CEO Keith Creel has asked the engineering department to develop a plan to upgrade the route, Brooks says.

“To run a premium product, you’ve got to have the infrastructure,” Brooks says. “To run the right operating railroad, you have to have the nuts and bolts in place. So that would be something we’d look to early on.”

CP sold off its trackage east of Montreal in the mid 1990s, including its line to Saint John, New Brunswick. The route ultimately became the CM&Q from Montreal to Brownville Junction, Maine. From Brownville Junction to Saint John the line is operated by J.D. Irving short lines New Brunswick Southern and Eastern Maine Railways.

Brooks says the railway is excited to put more dots on its map, even if that meant paying way more for the route than what CP sold it for back in 1995.

Rival Canadian National has a major presence in Atlantic Canada, including service to Saint John, as well as Halifax, Nova Scotia. Buying the CM&Q will enable CP to better compete, Brooks says.

“The opportunity to link directly into Searsport [Maine], that port terminal, and then also into Saint John, that port terminal, is valuable,” Brooks says. “It’s a powerful tool that we haven’t had in our toolbox. I think that lends itself to new intermodal products. I think that lends itself to potentially new automotive products.”

The deal offers the potential for both new intermodal service and carload growth.

“Certainly the premium-type service opportunity is something we are keenly interested in,” Brooks says.

CM&Q has a strong base of forest products traffic, Brooks notes, including several shippers that CP does not do business with today.

Acquiring the CM&Q also may permit CP to better compete for potash traffic that CN currently handles to the port of Saint John for export to Brazil.

Fortress purchased the bankrupt Montreal, Maine & Atlantic for $14.5 million in 2014, a year after the disastrous oil train wreck that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. The CM&Q handled about 26,000 carloads in 2018.

Brooks spoke at the RailTrends 2019 conference, which is sponsored by trade publication Progressive Railroading and independent analyst Anthony B. Hatch of ABH Consulting.

15 thoughts on “Canadian Pacific plans to upgrade CM&Q trackage to handle premium traffic NEWSWIRE

  1. “Canadian Pacific will upgrade Central Maine & Quebec trackage so that the route linking Montreal and Atlantic ports can handle premium intermodal and automotive traffic”

    But who is paying for the Lec Megantic Bypass as part of the upgrade?

  2. CP will be a true “transcon” once again. George Stephen, 1st Baron Mount Stephen, GCVO, can rest easy again.

  3. Whip out that cheque book Mr. Creel and write one to CSX for the Michigan Line. Complete the iron lariat around the Great Lakes to Chicago. Just Do It.

  4. DANIEL – Do you mean NS in Michigan not CSX?

    If you do mean CSX that doesn’t seem as direct Chicago to Michigan to Canada.

  5. NS in Michigan is a problem because the former NYC track is now divided between NS, Grand Elk/Watco operation, and AMTRAK.

    CSX goes through Grand Rapids, Michigan which is a large city. Unfortunately on the Western side of Michigan it is a single track line that is not yet upgraded to higher-speed operation. They would need an investment in new track, ballast, and signals.

  6. @Andrew Falconer-The State of Michigan owns the Michigan Line from BO Tower (Kalamazoo) to CP Townline (Dearborn). Amtrak owns it From BO Tower (Kazoo) to CP Porter (Porter, IN). CSAO owns the line from CP Townline to Detroit Line DS, where the tunnel lead to Windsor begins.

  7. Admittedly unorthodox stray thoughts this evening…
    Wondering if we might see CP locomotives rolling thru South Woodbine, KY, en route to ATL?
    There were once leased CN locomotives on the Corbin-Etowah route back in the mid-1970s, when the L&N was struggling to find horsepower.

  8. For the right price they should have no trouble getting the CSX line, I believe it’s one of the routes they are considering selling. CP is familiar as they used it to get to Chicago in the early 2000s up until they shifted over to the NS (Wabash-NYC Water Level) route they use today. Also, NS retained some rights on the MDOT owned portion of the former MI Central I believe and could possibly be able to prevent any CP through usage. Unless they’d rather get them off the current route due to capacity issues.

    The CSX (north) route is the longest of the three but likely gives them the most operating freedom and still has a decent amount of online opportunities when you factor going through both Lansing and GR. Unfortunately no matter which route you take, CSX (north), Michigan Central now Amtrak/MDOT (central) or NS (south) you end up in basically the exact same funnel point at Porter IN. From there west is a challenge. IMO building out the parallel passenger-only route from Porter into CUS needs some shared contribution CREATE-like dollars. It doesn’t have to be fancy high speed electrified rail as some dreamers would like. With Englewood already in place, lay down some parallel track on existing land, drop another lift bridge across the two canals and you’re mostly there. Not saying that is chump change, but I don’t think it’s mega-bucks either. Stop mixing different-speed trains on the same lines and create quite a bit more capacity.

    Last point, connecting the dot on passenger service between GR and DET I’d love to see somehow factor into any changes to the CSX line. It’s been looked at but I believe upgrades to make it “passenger worthy” are pretty pricey. Again, some shared investment could make this work.

    Now if only Amtrak and MDOT could figure out how to run a railroad on time we’d be in business in MI…

  9. Well the line through Grand Rapids would be an ideal fit for CP there’s a moderate size yard with a locomotive service area that would allow them to fuel and service locomotives so trains could be run thru the greater Chicago area without having to yard them in Chicago or pay for the belt railroads to process cars.We also did a lot of block swapping and other set offs and pick ups. The line is in great shape and only require extending sidings or tying them together. The run times we had where a lot better than the other routes and I really doubt the state of Michigan would allow a freight railroad to run on a key passenger route.

  10. JEFFREY – Why can’t anything get through Indiana? Maybe because it’s all the abandonments or downgradings. If you take all the lines abandoned or dwngraded in the State of Indiana it would add up to a pretty sizable railroad. I wonder if anyone ever looked at a map. Everything east of St. Louis, KCMO or Chicago goes through Indiana. Or I should say what’s left of Indiana railroading.

  11. Canadian Pacific will be a coast-to-coast transcontinental again…but this time meeting the Atlantic at Searsport, Maine.

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