News & Reviews News Wire CN, Norfolk Southern announce new cross-border domestic intermodal service

CN, Norfolk Southern announce new cross-border domestic intermodal service

By Bill Stephens | September 11, 2023

Service will rely on new steel wheel interchange in Detroit and Chicago when it begins in October

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This map shows the routes that new Canadian National and Norfolk Southern cross-border domestic intermodal service will use when it begins in October 2023. CN, NS

Canadian National and Norfolk Southern have teamed up for new cross-border domestic interline intermodal service that will link Atlanta with six Canadian locations and Kansas City, Mo., with Toronto and Montreal.

The service, announced today, will launch on Oct. 2 with new steel-wheel interchanges in Detroit and Chicago, the railroads said. The service will connect Atlanta with Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta; Vancouver, British Columbia; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Toronto and Montreal.

“This new CN-Norfolk Southern domestic intermodal service combines premier intermodal choices for our shared customers,” Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said in a statement. “Designed with customer-centricity top of mind, it simplifies their processes, enabling smoother rail shipments between Canada, Kansas City, and Atlanta.”

The new service will give CN its first access to Kansas City, something it had sought through its failed acquisition of Kansas City Southern and later as part of regulatory review of the Canadian Pacific-KCS merger.

“CN is pleased to provide customers enhanced market access with the launch of another new intermodal product,” CN CEO Tracy Robinson said in a statement. “The reliable, cost-effective, and truck-competitive service will help our customers shift more business onto rail.”

In May CN tied its intermodal network in Detroit and Canada to Mexico via new Falcon Premium service offered in conjunction with Union Pacific and Ferromex via Chicago.

The daily service with NS will connect Toronto and Atlanta in 3.7 days northbound and 3.3 days southbound, while Toronto-Kansas City transit times will be 3.8 days eastbound and 3.6 days westbound. Full schedules are available here.

8 thoughts on “CN, Norfolk Southern announce new cross-border domestic intermodal service

  1. NS buying the Wabash and using their KCMO gateway years ago seemed strategic, but it suffers the same fate all east-west railroad interchanges suffer from….no one wants to be the first to give up their home rails to interchange. So they all default to Chicago. So NS collects traffic for anyone who can’t reach that far. (like CN)

    When ATSF bought the TPW, everyone thought the same thing…! ATSF can interchange east-west traffic and bypass Chicago completely, except, no east coast railroad wanted to cede interchange that far east.

    When Frisco became part of BNSF, they had a path into Alabama and the port of Mobile, except few east coast carriers want to give up their traffic that soon unless the shipper demands the route. So BNSF spun off the Mobile route to AGR.

    So this deal is really a way for CN to reach a huge grain terminal they operate south of KCMO and signal the customers that they too can get get premium routing east out of KC. But it still suffers from that same issue, it skips Chicago for east-west traffic.

  2. CNR can find its way from Detroit (thus eastern Canada) to KCMO. CPKC can’t, despite KC being half its name.

    CNR lost the battle for Kansas City Southern, but wins the war.

    I must have posted five or six times that CPR needed to team up with NS to get to Kansas City. Well, it didn’t, but now CNR has.

    Remember the Wabash Railroad? (Well, few of us remember back to 1964, but I read books and TRAINS MAGAZINE.) “Follow the Flag”, said Wabash. CNR is following the flag, but CPKC isn’t.

    PS Second time in two days I’ve alluded to the Wabash. In yesterday’s post about a 1987 crash at DTW Detroit Metro Airport, the Northwest Airlines plane had the misfortune of belly-flopping onto Norfolk Southern’s ex-Wabash main line. One survivor.

    1. I have no idea was the CPKC strategy is. For the moment it appears they are bulking up the KCS side of house. No deal with NS as you mentioned. No announcement of a new Detroit River tunnel. No schedule for Mex manufactured goods going to the Golden Horseshoe.

    2. Charles, I remember the Wabash F units that use to roam southern Ontario. Sadly one of them fell off a bridge and burnt in Simcoe in the mid 70’s.

    3. Jim – It was about 1968 or 1969 , I saw the Norfolk and Western ex- Wabash Cannonball passing Detroit Metro Airport. An engine, two, possibly three cars. Detroit Fort Street Union Depot to St. Louis. The train survived (if you call it that) until Amtrak. It was one train I never wanted to ride.

      Hey folks, here’s my disclosure (from this forum’s annoying airline advocate), it’s September 11th, haven’t ridden a train this year (had plans to ride Amtrak tomorrow, plans cancelled by the other person). So 2023 looks like the first and only year I’ve not ridden a train since I don’t know when, maybe when I was six or seven or eight years old. Even fuller disclosure, I’m trying to talk my wife out of a planned Amtrak LD train trip next month, flying just makes more sense and is a lot cheaper comparing UAL’s glorious First Class to Amtrak sleeping car.

    4. Flying just makes sense sometimes Charles.
      If I want to go visit the grandsons, 4 hour direct flight from Toronto, 8 hours from Hamilton connecting through Calgary.
      60 hours with VIA from Toronto to Edmonton a hotel stay and then a 4+ hour drive north in a rental car, you don’t drive in northern Alberta at night unless really necessary.
      Plus the hope of making the 45 minute connection time taking my local VIA to Toronto during morning rush.
      And we haven’t even considered the thousands of extra loonies of taking the train and we haven’t even attempted to get back home yet.
      The transcontinental train still makes sense to connect remote communities but as a mode of intercity travel, not so much.

    5. “CNR can find its way from Detroit (thus eastern Canada) to KCMO. CPKC can’t, despite KC being half its name.”

      CPKC connects Detroit – Kansas City via. Chicago and haulage rights. It is on its own rails for the majority of that distance. CN traffic between Detroit and Kansas City won’t touch any of that company’s own rails.

      – Ed Kyle

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