To achieve that goal, Ritchie & Co. created an Interline Business Management team, which will help foster an understanding of each railroad and lay the groundwork for problem identification and resolution, says Hugh MacDiarmid, CPR's executive vice president-commercial.
The group reflects what MacDiarmid calls "Rob's absolute determination that we're going to operate as one team and one company."
StL&H's Liston echoes that sentiment, referring to the confidence and support Ritchie provided in committing to an Eastern network, post-Calgary.
"There was the risk that if we didn't turn [the Eastern operation] around, CPR would chop it off," he says. "It took a lot of guts."
THE CONRAIL CONNECTION
So in early 1997, when the Conrail carve-up was announced, CPR officials set to work forging three operating agreements with NS and CSXT.
One agreement allows NS access into New England via CPR track between Harrisburg, Pa., and Albany, N.Y. Both Class Is pitched in a total of $12 million for improvements on the line.
Another deal gives CPR access to the shared assets areas in northern and southern New Jersey — making way for CPR's first link into the state and its ports, even though the arrangement means NS locomotives pull CPR cargo.
A third agreement, approved by the Surface Transportation Board in May, gives CPR trackage rights over CSX property into New York City via Montreal, Albany and the west side of the Hudson River.
As part of its link to the Northeast and eventually Chicago, CPR recently invested $48 million in its short-haul intermodal freight system, which runs from Montreal to Toronto. Expansion to Detroit is slated for later this year.
Formerly known as "Iron Highway" and renamed "Expressway," the service reduces truckers' fuel and tractor investment costs, while effectively coping with driver shortages by decreasing the number of overnight runs needed.
We are going to have provide a seamless system from the interior of China to Canada and the United States. I have the same goal for Europe.
Using 240 new platforms, Expressway soon will have enough railway equipment to provide a total of 60 trailer slots in each of four specially designed trains. This is triple the load capacity of the Iron Highway test project, which began in 1996.
Ritchie's also proud of the development of CPR's two internal short lines. Operated by CPR employees under special union agreements, these lines — the 115-mile Kawartha Lakes Railway northeast of Toronto and" the 163-mile Kootenay Valley Railway in southeastern British Columbia — are considered separate entities within CPR.
As low-density branch lines, CPR officials originally deemed them unproductive and unable to carry the amount of volume needed to be viable using the railroad's conventional equipment and collective labor agreements.
But the unions agreed to allow the internal short lines to prosper. Kawartha Lakes, formed in late 1996, went from moving 5,700 carloads in 1997 to expectations of more than 7,500 carloads this year. The results have boosted morale among the railway's 20 employees.
"It's [making as much money] as if we had sold it, or damn near close," Liston says. "And we've managed to save the positions for our employees."
So the short lines, which Ritchie says began as an "experiment," became successful partnerships.
"The success of the turnaround in the East as a whole is based on CPR's ability to empower managers in areas where significant innovation is-required," says Liston.
The same is true elsewhere along the CPR network. Empowered managers, employees — everyone on the CPR team has a role to play in keeping the railway customer-focused and, so, competitive.
"If we fall short in the service end, it's not one person's fault," Ritchie says. "We all have collective goals — safety, service and financial."
Adds MacDiarmid: "Rob is absolutely determined that we're going to operate as one team and one company."
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