Regulator Dismisses Producer Car Complaint – for Aug. 12, 2010

CN isn’t bound by law to keep or operate a producer car site wherever one exists or a farmer wants one, the Canadian Transportation Agency has ruled.

The regulator last week dismissed a level-of-service complaint filed late last year by Cam Goff, a central-Saskatchewan farmer and Canadian Wheat Board director.

Goff’s December complaint followed Canadian National (CN) Railway’s decision last summer to delist 53 Prairie sites where farmers can load their own grain cars, including nine in Manitoba.

Although Goff’s filing referred to “the loss of rail access by thousands of farmers at 53 sites,” the CTA said it could only concern itself with CN’s decision to delist a site at Allan, Sask., about 50 km southeast of Saskatoon.

The CTA, in its release Aug. 4, cited evidence that Goff had only used the producer car site at Allan three times since 2005-06 and “future traffic offered by (Goff) at the Allan site is not certain.”

And Goff’s requests for producer car loading at Allan are also “not likely to be in sufficient volume for the agency to reasonably require CN to maintain service at that location,” the CTA said.

Plus, the CTA said, Goff will still have access to CN’s producer car loading site at nearby Hanley, Sask. The agency quoted Goff as saying he uses the Hanley site near his farm “out of personal preference while business decisions dictate the use of the Allan site.”

Specifically, the CTA said, Goff feared delisting the Allan site would block his best access to the CWB’s Churchill Storage Program. Access to that program would still be available to him at Saskatoon, the CTA said.

The Canada Transportation Act’s “level-of-service” provisions do not oblige CN to maintain and operate all existing or requested producer car loading sites, the CTA ruled.

“Requiring railway companies to do so would render meaningless another provision of the act under which sidings may be delisted, a process which CN followed for the 53 sites.”

Goff, whose supporting interveners included the CWB, National Farmers Union, Hudson Bay Route Association and Producer Car Shippers of Canada, had asked the CTA to refuse to allow the delisting of any more sites, and to deny the removal of infrastructure from any sites alreadydelisted.CN said last September that of the 53 sites to be delisted, three-quarters of the sidings in question hadn’t been used in three years and the remainder had seen less than five cars.

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