Shippers Call For Better Rail Service

The Harper government needs to act as quickly as possible to improve rail service or the country’s economic recovery will be in jeopardy, says the Coalition of Rail Shippers.

After a day-long, closed-door conference on the Rail Freight Service Panel’s interim report released in October, coalition officials said the report clearly spells out the problems caused by the lack of competition between CN and CP – but then recommends no action for two years.

“Unless the law is changed, the recovery will be strangled,” Ian May, chairman of the Western Canadian Shippers Coalition, said at a news conference. “We need immediate action.”

Transport Minister Chuck Strahl hasn’t commented on the panel’s interim report released in October.

Neil Thurston, the panel’s executive director, says 44 submissions on that report were received by the Nov. 8 deadline. The panel is studying them and is aiming to present Strahl with a copy of its final report

before Christmas. A full English and French version of it will be handed to Transport Canada before the end of January. It will decide on the timing of the report’s release.

May and other shipper representatives said Canadian companies are losing export business because of poor rail service. May said the issue is the market dominance of the railways. “Shippers are not getting service. It’s not about railway costing, it’s about the legislation.”

“Customers around the world complain about the reliability of the Canadian supply chain,” said Greg Cherewyk, executive director of Pulse Canada. “The government needs to begin measuring the performance of the rail freight system so we can identify the problems.”

Andrew Casey, vice-president of the Forest Products Association of Canada, said the government shouldn’t wait for two years to take action to correct problems. “It needs to get going now otherwise it will be another decade before anything happens. We need to get every participant in the supply chain to work better.”

The coalition speaks for 18 industry associations representing hundreds of companies that account for more than 80 per cent of the railway revenues.

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Unlessthelawis changed,therecovery willbestrangled.”

– IAN MAY

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