MONTREAL, June 28, 2012 /CNW/ - The Coalition of Rail Shippers (CRS) has presented the federal government with suggested principles to revise the Canada Transportation Act to improve rail freight service in Canada. The principles are contained in a letter delivered to the Minister of Transport, Denis Lebel. They were also handed out yesterday to the Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz, after a meeting between the Minister and members of the CRS in Montreal.
The move follows last week's release of the Dinning report after his facilitation process failed to bridge the gap between rail customers and the railways. At that time, the government again pledged to bring in legislation this fall to give shippers the right to service agreements with the railways and a process to establish such agreements should commercial negotiations fail.
"The government has asked stakeholders to engage in the process and rail shippers are keen to do so," said the Chair of the CRS, Bob Ballantyne. "We are proposing measures that will address the imbalance in market power enjoyed by the railways. It is critical that the proposed legislation succeed in establishing a climate where normal commercial negotiations can take place."
The CRS principles include services and obligations, communication protocols, performance standards and consequences for non-performance.
Railway customers, big and small, spend several billion dollars on rail freight services each year. Many resource-based rail customers are captive to the virtual monopoly power enjoyed by the railways. This unacceptable imbalance of power has led to inadequate service which impacts the competitiveness of Canadian businesses and their ability to serve export markets. The Federal Government's Rail Freight Service Review report, tabled in March 2011, stated that: "the major cause of rail service problems is railway market power, which leads to an imbalance in the commercial relationships between the railways and other stakeholders."
"Shippers look forward to working with government officials over the summer on this legislation to redress that imbalance," said Ballantyne. "Our goal is to have legislation that will level the playing field between customers and railways for the benefit of job creation and economic growth for all of Canada.
The Coalition of Rail Shippers represents 18 industry associations that support about two million jobs. Members provide 80% of the revenue of Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways.