Railroads Restoring Limited Service to Port of Vancouver 

Vancouver rail service restored to port
Crews worked around the clock to restore train service (BC Transport)

Published Nov 23, 2021 8:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

Limited rail service was restored to the Port of Vancouver, Canada on November 23 more than a week after torrential rains washed out roads and rail lines in the province of British Columbia. Officials, however, cautioned that it will take time to rebalance the heavily disrupted supply lines while there is the forecast of more significant rains this week.

Canadian Pacific was able to operate two trains on their mainline between Vancouver and Kamloops through the hard-hit Thompson and Fraser Valley regions. The areas had received as much as 12 inches of rain on November 14 and 15 leading to widespread flooding, mudslides, and significant damage to the infrastructure as well as the loss of lives. For a time, Vancouver was mostly cut off from Eastern Canada, but in recent days crews had been able to reopen major highways for at least essential travel while warning of detours, intermittent closures, and traffic restrictions.

The railroad reports that it was able to operate the two trains to perform full inspections while undertaking additional repairs. The restored line was expected to begin accepting trains later in the day at reduced speeds. CP and Canadian National will be sharing the single line initially. CN had hoped to reopen its mainline on November 24, but today announced it would be delayed a day to Thursday, November 25.

"I am extremely proud of the CP team. Their extraordinary dedication, grit and perseverance in the face of extremely challenging conditions are the reasons we are able to restore our vital rail network in only eight days," said Keith Creel, CP President and CEO. "The following 10 days will be critical. As we move from response to recovery to full-service resumption, our focus will be on working with customers to get the supply chain back in sync."

Working in combination with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, CP reports that its crews moved more than 150,000 cubic yards of material. Its initial surveys showed that 30 locations were damaged with 20 resulting in a significant loss of infrastructure. More than 80 pieces of heavy equipment were brought in with crews working around the clock to repair the damage both to the rail lines and parts of the road system, including the Trans-Canada Highway.

The supply chain, however, has been severely impacted with residents Tweeting out pictures of empty supermarkets. Gasoline was being rationed in places with emergency shipments coming by barge from Washington State. Air Canada also added additional air freight service into the region to move critical supplies.

The Port of Vancouver had been able to restore some truck operations, but officials said that as much as two-thirds of all the containers at the port are moved by rail. Currently, there are a total of 68 ships at the Port of Vancouver, with 23 on dock and 45 at anchor. The port reported that the inner harbor anchorages were full and demand in all areas was high and nearing capacity. Critically, there have been no grain loading operations at the port. There are 17 gain ships at anchor, as well as 11 coal carriers and seven container ships.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth warned residents to be prepared for additional difficulties. He highlighted the coming rainstorm and said to expect additional heavy rains in the coming weeks. He also warned of snowmelt as temperatures were rising in some of the higher elevations. Calling the storms “atmospheric rivers,” Farnworth announced that Environment Canada is working on a rating system to be introduced in 2022 to help residents to gauge the danger from future storms.