Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I appreciate the opportunity to meet all of you. I am sorry that I couldn't be there in person, but it's good to meet you remotely.
Mr. Dreeshen, it's good to see you again. We met at the Paterson elevator opening this fall near Calgary.
I am CP's Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for Grain and Fertilizers. Just by way of background, prior to joining CP earlier this year, I spent many years working for a grain shipper in Winnipeg.
Thank you for the invitation to speak with you this morning. CP appreciates the opportunity to discuss our plan to move Canada's grain during this crop year and the upcoming winter.
CP operates a 13,000-mile transcontinental rail network across Canada and the U.S. Our rail network is a critical component of North America's integrated supply chain. Grain is CP's largest line of business. It represents nearly one-quarter of our total revenue.
CP stands ready to safely and efficiently move grain during this crop year and we are off to a good start already. This year's Canadian grain crop is large. Our current estimate is that the crop is between 70 million and 72 million metric tons. When we add in the higher-than-normal carry from the previous year's production, the total crop to move is approximately 83 million metric tons, which is 5% higher than the prior five-year average.
Even though we are currently seeing strong demand from many other lines of business, our railway is performing very well, and our focus on grain is unrelenting. In fact, we broke our all-time record for the movement of grain in October, moving 2.64 million metric tons of Canadian grain and grain products.
Because of strong demand, CP is investing in significant new resources. We have more than 1,200 employees in training. The majority are running trades employees—the men and women who operate the trains. They are being deployed over the coming months. We've all added more than 100 fully remanufactured high-horsepower locomotives, which increases our road power fleet by about 20%.
Based on current forecasts, CP's operating team plans to consistently spot 5,500 hopper cars weekly for the movement of Canadian whole grains through the fall. We've done just that again with 5,540 hopper cars spotted last week. We plan to continue at this pace until the closure of the port of Thunder Bay in late December. Thunder Bay is an important outlet for Canadian grain. Through the winter months with Thunder Bay closed, CP plans to supply approximately 4,000 cars per week with CP equipment for the loading of grain.
Further, CP anticipates moving, on average, an additional 850 cars weekly of grain products in mostly customer-supplied cars throughout the crop year. These expectations, of course, are contingent on strong co-operation from, and coordination with, all components of the supply chain.
CP has significantly increased our capital investment in 2018. We are investing $1.6 billion dollars this year to enhance both safety and service. A significant portion of that—approximately half a billion dollars—is dedicated to new high-capacity grain hopper cars. We placed an initial order for 1,000 cars with National Steel Car of Hamilton, Ontario. CP has already received 261 of these new hopper cars. We will have 500 in service by the end of 2018 and then another 500 in the first quarter of 2019.
Over the next four years, with these 1,000 cars as the base, we plan to purchase a total of 5,900 new hopper cars, which will fully replace the old low-capacity Government of Canada hopper cars. The new car design is shorter and lighter, and it features a three-pocket configuration that allows for more efficient loading and unloading, and simpler maintenance. The new hopper cars can handle 15% more grain by volume, and 10% more load weight than can the cars being retired. Their shorter frame allows more cars in a train of the same length, though a train of the same length as today's standard—7,000 feet—will carry 16% more grain with these new hopper cars.
CP is also driving the new standard in grain transportation—a high throughput elevator capable of loading an 8,500-foot train clear of CP's main line track in 16 hours or less.
These new elevators will use a power-on model, which means that CP's locomotives stay with the train and are used by the elevator for the loading operation. When the loading is done, the power is there, allowing for quick and seamless departure from the elevator. Along with our new fleet of high-capacity hopper cars, this new standard will significantly increase the volume of grain the supply chain can move over a crop year.
CP currently services seven 8,500-foot loop-track elevators across the Prairies. Four additional 8,500-foot-capable facilities have been announced on our network this year. CP is continuing to negotiate and work with our customers to upgrade most of the network to an 8,500-foot model.
Now, let me make some comments about our winter planning at CP. We all know that harsh winter conditions are an operating reality for all modes of transportation in Canada. Winter conditions can profoundly affect railway operations and our ability to maintain service to our customers. As we Canadians know, not every winter is the same. The severity, duration and geographical scope of harsh winter conditions can vary significantly.
When temperatures drop below -25°C, a train's speed, length and weight must be reduced to ensure safety, which is always CP's number one priority. The reduction of these factors unavoidably constrains the rail system's velocity and throughput for a period of time, which in turn, reduces the supply chain's overall capacity. CP is employing a distributed power configuration on trains, placing locomotives in mid and end positions, which partially mitigates the need to reduce train length in cold temperatures by adding air pressure to the brake system throughout the train.
We also need to be constantly vigilant to the threat of avalanches through our mountain corridors in Alberta and B.C.
CP deploys significant resources each year to forecast and plan for winter, and then to mitigate the impacts as much as possible. Fortunately, CP has achieved improvements to winter performance in recent years through significant investments in track infrastructure and rolling stock and strong winter planning with our customers and the broader supply chain. Nevertheless, the impact of winter on a railway's performance can never be eliminated. No matter what action is taken, tough winter conditions will always constrain the system's capacity, impacting service through some periods. Proper planning is essential, but it can never completely insulate a railway from the effects of winter.
Again, I thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this morning, and I'm happy to take any questions.