Ottawa’s promised rail freight service review got underway Monday with a request for comment from stakeholders on its proposed terms of reference.
“There is widespread support for this review because it will identify service problems and their impacts and make recommendations to improve Canada’s rail freight logistics system,” federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon said in a press release Monday.
The review was pledged as part of a package of amendments to the Canada Transportation Act in May last year.
Draft terms of reference for this review have already been revised using feedback from the Coalition of Rail Shippers, as well as from Canadian National Railway (CN) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).
Other stakeholders have until May 11 to file comment and the terms of reference are expected to be finalized later in May.
The review’s scope, Transport Canada said, is to include Canada’s rail-based logistics chain (shippers, terminal operators, ports, vessels). The review is to focus on service provided to Canadian shippers and customers by CN and CPR within Canada, including to and from ports and border crossings.
This scope, Transport Canada wrote, “is good news for shippers of a broad range of commodity groups such as agriculture; coal; fertilizers; forest products; fuel and chemicals; grain; intermodal including retail; machinery and automotive; manufactured products; and metals and minerals.”
It’s proposed that the review be done in two stages over the next 12 to 18 months. In the first stage, which would take at least six months, consultants would assess railway operational issues and conduct shipper surveys on railway best practices and issues, using data gathered from shippers, railways and terminals.
Transport Canada, meanwhile, would assess how such issues are addressed in other transportation sectors and in regulated industries in Canada and the U.S.
The second stage, which would last at least another six months, would involve a “panel of three eminent persons” developing recommendations based on the work done to date, consulting stakeholders on its draft recommendations and submitting a final report to the transport minister.