Thank you, Justin and good morning, everyone. Greenbrier adhered to disciplined management program throughout this year of the pandemic.
Now, I know we said this in our news release this morning, but it's worth repeating.
Our simple core strategy since March 2020 has been; number one, to maintain a strong liquidity base and balance sheet; number two, to safely operate our factories while generating cash, reducing costs and adjusting to reduce demand for our products and services. That reduction in demand was clearly shown in this quarter's results. Number three to prepare for economic recovery and forward momentum in our markets. We believe we're now solidly in this recovery phase. We believe that our Q2 just completed in February will be the most challenging quarter of our fiscal year, particularly affected by very bad weather in North America. There's good reason to be optimistic as vaccines expand in the United States. Vaccinations will bolster already accelerating infection and mortality rates and allow America to turn the corner on the pandemic at last. Globally, we are prepared for the pandemic to take a longer course toward resolution. Sadly, we learned last week that Greenbrier lost two more employees, our sixth and seventh loss to COVID-19. [indiscernible], 58 was assistant to the plant manager at our Severin, Romania facility where she worked for over 32 years.
We also lost Luis Martinez [ph], age 43. Luis was maintenance manager in our Tlaxcala -- factory in Tlaxcala, State of Mexico -- in the State of Tlaxcala in Mexico. He has been with Greenbrier since December 2017. He was survived by his wife and four children ages 19, 17, 11 and 5. We mourned the loss of Morella [ph] and Lewis. We're extending support and prayers to their family and to colleagues who worked with them.
Our results in the second quarter reflect the current -- the temporary difficulties in the operating environment, particularly in North America, but also in Europe and Brazil, and I emphasize temporary.
In addition to lower production levels relating to the market downturn and as earlier mentioned severe weather conditions impact our second quarter results in North America. On a much more positive note, revenue aggregate gross margin and EBITDA all improved sequentially month-by-month during the quarter, indicating positive momentum.
Our order pipeline of inquiries took a big jump in March. We completed our GBX joint venture post quarter with Steve Menzies and funded the first $100 million tranche of railcars from a newly established $300 million non-recourse credit line established for this business.
Our financial results were also positively impacted by tax benefits related to the creation of GBX leasing joint venture and additional capitalization of railcars into the Greenbrier leasing fleet in our second fiscal quarter. Adrian Downes, our CFO will touch on this in a few minutes.
Finally, post quarter and almost all in the month of March, we received orders for another 1,700 railcars with an approximate value of $190 million. On top of the 3,800 railcars orders received during the quarter, worth $440 million in all 5,500 cars worth about $630 million in the space of 4 months or more. In recent weeks, North American rail traffic grew in year-over-year comparisons including double-digit increases in grain and intermodal loadings. The added traffic has driven year-to-date rail velocity down by nearly 6% compared to the same period in 2020, or about two miles an hour. Slowing rail velocity, as all of you know impacts cars and storage and demand for new railcars. Consider that about 148,000 cars have been taken out of storage in North America alone since the peak storage levels of last year. Storage statistics have fallen now to 378,000 units well below what we believe to be the frictional level of storage 400,000 cars. At that point, new cars need to be built with returns of cars service, higher scrap pricing and tax benefits for construction of new, more efficient and environmentally friendly equipment we expect this trend to continue. Throughout the course of the pandemic, we've been laser focused on maintaining our strong liquidity position. We ended the quarter with over $700 million of liquidity, including nearly $600 million of cash, another $115 million of available borrowing capacity.
We expect to add another $100 million shortly.
Now let's talk for a moment about our plan for recovery. Vital to our ongoing success is the ability to rapidly align production capacity and execution with our forward view of the market. We began to reduce capacity prior to the onset of the pandemic, as our industry was already entering a weaker period due to PSR. COVID-19 compelled us to take a serious of further actions to protect the enterprise and to ensure Greenbrier attain its strongest possible financial position.
We have maintained long-term profitability over the years by prioritizing our manufacturing flexibility and refusing to allow our unique manufacturing platform to become a mere commodity. Refinement of our go-to-market strategy, adding GBX leasing to our successful formula of direct sales, syndications and partnerships with operating lessors will reinforce our recovery. We reactivated a number of North American production lines in March and several of our production lines are already booked well into or through fiscal 2022. The inquiry rate for new manufacturing business has picked up dramatically.
We expect the continued high rate of commercial activity to continue April, May and beyond. Consistent with our earlier forecasts that the second half of calendar 2021 would be the time of a V shaped recovery.
Forecasts for rail traffic fundamentals in North America support Greenbrier's outlook that we are entering a period of sustained and expanding railcar [technical difficulty]. FTR Associates projects that total rail traffic will grow by 5.7% year-over-year in 2021 and intermodal traffic will grow by 6.4%. In North America, the latest U.S economic indicators reflect growing optimism. The consensus forecast for GDP growth has been revised up to 4.7% and 3.6% for 2021 and 2022, respectively. Both Bank of America and Goldman Sachs are even more bullish and closer to 7% for 2021. In February, the Purchasing Managers Index reached its highest level since February 2018. At the same time, however, supply chain disruptions that have been evident for months persist with congestion at West Coast port -- ports and these continue to weigh in the North American traffic flows. Strong consumer demand, manufacturing growth and Fed policy on lower interest rates along with low cost funding available globally will continue to spur economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Federal stimulus spending in the U.S is at extraordinary levels. Also the federal infrastructure bill will provide additional stimulus for sustained growth into 2022 and probably beyond. Other bills in the work -- in the works at past should enhance U.S job growth and further incent the construction to more efficient, environmentally friendly railcars. In Europe, the large EU recovery and resiliency facility will begin to impact the EU economy and money remains plentiful and cheap. A wave of pent up consumer and investment demand is expected to materialize, although vaccine rollout has been slower than in America. In the meantime, rail freight has continued to perform well through the latest rounds of lockdowns and restrictions. Order rates have ticked up dramatically in EU. EU policy and congestion and the environment is attempting to shift transportation from truck to rail, which is 3x to 4x more fuel efficient and produces less congestion and better air quality in cities. Rail freight traffic has actually grown over pre-crisis levels in some countries. In the U.K., rail may turn out to be one of the few beneficiaries of Brexit as trade flows are rerouted to accommodate new circumstances. Longer term, broad scale economic European reforms to address climate change are ushering in an era of modal shift from freight -- for freight, from polluting and congested road travel to efficient higher speed rail service. This will drive significant growth in railcar demand in the years to come above and beyond replacement demand growth. And the fleets in EU countries are ageing. Many cars are already well past the time for replacement.
Finally in Brazil, the continued impact of COVID-19 has left the country's health system in a very weak condition. Greenbrier Maxion continues to operate well in a stressful environment. Demand for its products are strong. Earlier we right size this business and it has a strong and profitable backlog. About 30% of our present backlog is in Europe and Brazil.
We expect tailwinds from both regions.
Our approach globally continues on course to emphasize safe operations of -- all of our facilities under essential industry status.
We continue to plan for robust liquidity and ongoing cost containment, and to execute on the growing number of orders we expect while maintaining pricing discipline and control of costs especially on steel and components. Entering the second half of our fiscal year, Greenbrier enjoys an industry leading manufacturing, leasing and services franchise on three continents and we've achieved scale.
Our business outlook is significantly improving, which will bring advantages from that scale. Despite the lingering uncertainty created by COVID-19, the one thing I am certain about is that our franchise will benefit strongly from all the things I've mentioned in these remarks today. Meanwhile, we will continue to preserve our strong liquidity position, make prudent business decisions about deployment of capital, grow our market opportunities, manage our manufacturing capacity judiciously.
We will do all this with -- at all times respect for our customers, for our workforce and through diversity and environmentally sound policies.
Our team continues to work hard to accomplish these goals and to maintain focus as better days draw closer as the COVID show on society melts away.
Now over to you Lorie.