Rail freight bill chugs ahead

Shippers say they’re disappointed their proposed amendments to the Fair Rail Freight Service Act have been rejected — but hopeful the legislation will see a substantial improvement in rail service.

“We are still supportive of this legislation moving forward,” said Richard Phillips, executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada.

“We are calling on both the railways and the shippers to honour the spirit and intent of the legislation and work together to help improve our international competitiveness with timely and efficient transportation.”

The Coalition of Rail Shippers had proposed several amendments, but they were rejected by the Commons transport committee. The bill still requires third reading in the Commons as well as Senate approval, but is expected to be passed by summer.

The shippers wanted changes “to prevent the railways from mounting legal challenges designed to either frustrate the intent of Parliament, delay decisions and lead shippers, both large and small, into expensive legal battles,” said Bob Ballantyne, chair of the rail shippers’ coalition.

The railways have opposed the legislation, which would require them to negotiate service agreements with shippers. The agreements would deal with issues such as failing to supply adequate freight cars and compensation when shipments are delayed.

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