DURING his acceptance speech as chairman at the closing ceremony of the
Ninth International Heavy Haul Conference on June 24, Michael Roney
took the opportunity to invite delegates to the next IHHA conference
which is being staged in June 2011 in Canadian Pacific's (CP) home town
of Calgary.

The 2011 conference will be a specialist technical session
with the theme of "Railroading in Extreme Conditions" that will explore
railway best practices at maintaining high service reliability no
matter what conditions Mother Nature serves up. The conference venue at
the base of the Rocky Mountains will give Roney and his colleagues the
opportunity to demonstrate excellence in North American heavy-haul
railway operations.

mike-roney.jpgRoney started by highlighting some of the
challenges which face heavy-haul railways. "We need to increase
productivity by lengthening trains while at the same time avoiding the
problems that long trains create such as how to control them, how to
maintain fluid railway operations, and how to reduce the delays they
can cause to road users at level crossings.

"As an industry, we haven't
solved the problem of moving to 40-tonne axleloads, even though the new
Fortescue Railway in the Pilbara region of Australia is running
40-tonne axleload trains. Every time we increased the axleload in the
past we discovered new problems with maintenance that required a period
of adjustment to reach the economic "sweet spot." Running trains at
higher axleloads will often find the weak points, such as the integrity
of rail welds or weak subgrades. The Finnish idea of increasing the
mass per length on a train is interesting, and is likely to be the best
first step in moving to either longer trains or heavier axleloads."

Another area which Roney believes needs attention is the question of
who controls the supply chain, and whether there is sufficient
coordination between the mines, the railway, the ports, and the
shipping companies. Many railways find themselves in the middle of a
power struggle between the different players involved. "The shippers
are getting more sophisticated by playing one railway off against the
other," says Roney.

"Global competition is also affecting us, and
customers are getting very smart in how they try to drive the price
down, which makes it even more important that railways share our
technologies aimed at driving efficiencies in operating costs. This
means, for example, that we need to be more aggressive at studying ways
to reduce fuel consumption, just as we did in the 1970s.

CP, like most
North American railways, has been hit by the global economic crisis.
Roney says CP's coal business is down by 30% and freight revenues
declined 13% in the first quarter. While CP has maintained spending on
maintenance, it is holding off on its capital expansion plan. "We have
cut $C 80 million ($US 69 million) out of our capital budget this year,
and reduced our staff by 2400 positions due to an unprecedented decline
in traffic in key markets," says Roney. "But we will be leaner and in a
better position than ever when the upturn comes. Even as traffic
declined, we reduced variable expenses. It has also given us the
opportunity to rethink some of our plans to eliminate capacity
bottlenecks on the network with lean production techniques."

Turning to
the IHHA itself, Roney believes it has done a good job in mechanical
and civil engineering. "I want to see us getting more involved in
operations," he says. "We are too engineering oriented, but not so well
developed as far as discovering common ground on railway operations is

During his term of office as IHHA chairman, Roney would
like to get more operating people involved in the work of the
association. "I would like us to write a heavy-haul railway operating
book based on shared experience to go alongside our new Guidelines to
best practices for heavy haul railway operations which focuses on
infrastructure construction and maintenance issues." The book, along
with a CD, was published in time for the Shanghai conference and
represents the newest and most comprehensive reference on track and
structures infrastructure for heavy axleload, high-tonnage railways.

Work on the new book will start with the treatise on heavy haul
operations expected to be developed from invited speakers and papers at
the 2011 Calgary conference.