Good morning, everyone. Thanks for the invitation.
How are we doing? The crop year is off to a very strong start, in spite of some challenges caused by early weather issues across western Canada, which, in some regions, delayed the harvest by many weeks. To this point, CN is on a record pace for grain movements out of western Canada. From week one through week 17, we've shipped 9.38 million metric tons of grain and processed grain products, as compared to our previous best of 9.07 million metric tonnes in 2016-17. This is 3% ahead of our former record.
We could have even done better. The reality is that there were more than 8,000 car orders cancelled since the start of the crop year, and in large part this is the result of the lack of grain availability caused by the delayed harvest. Now that most of the grain is off, producers and grain companies are dealing with the consequences of a late harvest and a lot of damp grain, which also slows down the system. In our grain report, we've indicated that we expect to move 5,500 hopper cars from the CN supply fleet each week during the peak months when the port of Thunder Bay is open and 4,000 cars per week when it is closed during the winter months.
We also move close to 700 to 900 private grain cars controlled by our customers. We've been consistently shipping this range per week in addition to the CN cars. This represents a significant evolution in the system. Four years ago, the number of private cars moved would have been in the order of just 20 to 30 private cars a week.
What has changed since we last met you back on March 19 and what has enabled us to significantly improve our performance? At that time, we indicated that our service had deteriorated due to a dramatic increase in traffic across virtually all areas of our business. This increase significantly exceeded both our expectations and those of our customers. In response, we've made very significant investments in both people and infrastructure. As Sean mentioned at the beginning of his remarks, the decision was made to increase our capital spending for 2018 to a record $3.5 billion, with the emphasis on capacity and enhancing projects in western Canada where the bulk of the traffic increase has occurred.
Specifically, we've installed more than 60 miles of double track in areas where congestion has been causing delays. We added or lengthened 10 sidings in the Vancouver and Prince Rupert corridors and we have increased yard capacity in key locations such as Winnipeg, Edmonton and Melville. These priority projects, most of which are now complete, have already had a positive impact on the fluidity of our network. At the same time, we've been focusing on increasing our workforce. Our Winnipeg training centre has been working at capacity for the past year, ensuring we have sufficient trained operating people in place. As a result, we now have 1,250 new qualified conductors in the field, which is a significant increase from last year.
We have also made significant investments in equipment. Specifically, we've ordered 260 new locomotives to be delivered over the next three years, with 60 in place before the end of 2018. We've also ordered 1,000 new high-capacity grain hopper cars, which will enable us to begin replacing the aging Government of Canada car fleet. We expect 500 of these new hopper cars will be delivered prior to the end of the crop year. We have ordered additional new centerbeam cars to serve our forest product customers.
Make no mistake, while we are pleased with the progress we have made, challenges remain. With the harvest finally complete, demand over the past several weeks has been well beyond what the grain supply chain can realistically handle. For example, in week 16, we received almost over 7,000 car orders, which significantly exceeds what can be handled, particularly with some congestion challenges at port terminals.
We expect demand for grain cars will remain strong well into the spring. The thousands of cars that did not move in September and October because of delayed harvest is capacity that was lost. It can't be transferred into months where we are already operating at capacity. Farming, like railroading, is an outdoor enterprise and we are both at the mercy of nature. For example, the inability of terminals in Vancouver to load when it's raining continues to present problems, especially during the rainy winter months on the west coast. The inability to load in the rain can lead to terminal congestion forcing us to hold trains en route to the port, or in the country. This leads to increased car cycle times, which reduces the overall capacity of the system.
Finally, I would note, the increase in the shipment of crude by rail due to a lack of pipeline capacity has received a lot of attention in the recent weeks. We recognize the critical importance of the oil sector to the west and will do our utmost to move additional volumes of crude when we have the capacity available. While we will do our best, we cannot increase our crude oil transport to the detriment of the other customers, particularly western grain producers. While recent weeks have seen an increase in crude traffic, we've also seen a slowdown in the movement of some other products, such as frac sand.
As I stated previously, we've increased our overall network capacity through significant investment, so no one should assume that more crude moving means less grain. In that regard, it is important to remember that very little crude moves west, which is the primary destination for these other commodities.
In conclusion, we are in a much better place than we were last crop year. That said, we need to be clear-eyed about the challenges that lie ahead. Winter always creates issues, and the impact of the late harvest will be felt throughout the crop year. However, with the investments we have made and the focus that we have brought, we are confident that CN is up to the challenges and we will continue to get the job done.