North American Rail provider BNSF is planning extensive upgrades to its automotive distribution facility at Orillia in Washington, to support growth in finished vehicle traffic. The development comes as part of a wider $125m investment in expansion, maintenance and capacity improvements in Orillia and Everett.

“BNSF's capital investments in Washington will help ensure our network is prepared for growing demand for freight rail," said Matthew K. Rose, chairman and CEO. "We are focused on investing to meet our customers' expectations and on expanding capacity where growth is occurring.”

Rail capacity for vehicle shipments is in big demand in North America as car sales are forecast to hit 16.5m this year. North American rail providers are making efforts to keep ahead of the increase in demand with greater investment in assets and more efficient use of existing ones. BNSF has placed orders that will increase its fleet by 20% this year, and it uses high-capacity Automax cars wherever possible.

A spokesperson for BNSF said the company could not provide specific details on the upgrades taking place at Orillia yet, as they were still in the “permitting process”.

The investment in Washington is part of BNSF's record 2013 capital commitment of $4.3 billion. The company said the largest component of the capital plan is spending $2.3 billion on BNSF's core network and related assets. BNSF also plans to spend approximately $1 billion on locomotive, freight car and other equipment, many of which will serve Washington. The programme also includes $800m for terminal, line and intermodal expansion and “efficiency projects”.