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CN trains back up and running but recovery 'will take several weeks'

Halifax, Canada - February 25, 2020 - A CN rail diesel locomotive sits idle in the Fairview Cove station.

Canadian National railway says its trains are back up and running, and employees are returning to work as the anti-pipeline protests that brought part of its network to a virtual standstill appear to have largely disappeared.

CN said in a statement Tuesday that it started to call back most of the approximately 450 employees that it temporarily laid off last month in response to the anti-pipeline blockades. Canada’s largest railway said there have not been any “significant illegal blockades” on its network over the past four days.

“While we are keeping a close watch on our network for any further disruptions, we are mobilizing our employees to be ready to implement a focused and methodical recovery plan for our eastern network,” CN’s chief executive JJ Ruest said in a statement.

However, he noted that the recovery process will still take several weeks as the company returns trains to service and catches up on a backlog of shipments across a wide range of industries. CN said more than 1,400 trains – including Via Rail’s passenger trains that operate on CN tracks – were delayed or cancelled as a result of the blockades, which began in early February and continued for several weeks.

“In western Canada, for the last two weeks, we have been well on our way to recovering,” Ruest said.

“While we are aware that there is still work ahead of us, export grain, imported containerized goods, coal, potash, energy products and other commodities are moving to markets. We are rebalancing our assets to service customer sites for loading.”

Demonstrators set up blockades across the country in solidarity with opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that crosses the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northwestern British Columbia. The blockades had brought some freight and passenger rail traffic to a standstill, particularly in parts of Ontario. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and senior government ministers reached a proposed arrangement Sunday.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said last month that nearly a quarter of its members had reported being negatively affected by the blockades, losing an average of $60,000.

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