Rail exec calls for further deregulation

Canada must stay on track toward full deregulation in grain transportation to drive investments that are critical for increased efficiency in the system, according to a CN marketing executive.

Jean-Jacques Ruest, senior vice-president of marketing for Canadian National Railway (CN), on Monday said deregulation has produced competitive rates for rail grain transport in Canada and significant efficiencies in the logistics system.

Speaking to the Canada Grains Council annual meeting in Winnipeg, Ruest said CN’s vision for greater improvements in grain transportation hinges on its ability to innovate and generate sufficient returns to reinvest in that business.

Re-regulation of grain transportation would discourage CN investment in the sector and could require a return to taxpayer subsidization of grain movements, he said.

Quoted in a CN press release, Ruest said the railway has achieved substantial improvements in recent years that have directly benefited grain producers, including:

  • significantly improved hopper car velocity, resulting in increased loadings at country elevators;
  • steadily increased shipments of Canadian Wheat Board grains since 2004, with shipments thus far in the current crop year ahead of pace; and
  • increased unloadings of grain to export vessels in the 2007-2008 crop-year as a result of using three ports and three transportation corridors.

Ruest said CN believes the capacity and efficiency of the grain handling and transportation system would gain from:

  • seven-day-a-week operation at the Pacific gateway ports, because the gateway is now partially closed weekends and holidays, negatively affecting system throughput;
  • full utilization of all ports, including Prince Rupert, and corridors on a year-round basis; and
  • balancing bulk vessel shipments with container vessel shipments and inland container loading with waterfront loading.

“Canada already has one of the best rail systems in the world, but we can make it even better for grain transportation if all stakeholders work together better to challenge the status quo and reach commercial consensus on required improvements in the system,” Ruest said.

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