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9/18/2007



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Federal mediator to help Canadian grain shippers, CN settle rail-car booking dispute



Six Canadian grain shippers and Canadian National Railway Co. recently agreed to resolve rail-car booking issues through mediation. The parties will meet with a federal mediator later this week.

On Sept. 5, the shippers — which include the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) — announced plans to file level-of-service complaints against CN with the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) claiming the railroad “failed to comply with the spirit” of a July CTA ruling that required the Class I to improve Great Northern Grain Terminals Ltd.’s access to rail cars.

The agency determined problems with CN’s car distribution program were “systemic in nature” and not isolated to one company. The CTA ordered CN to create a program that would enable Great Northern Grain to order blocks of 50 cars in advance; not prohibit or restrict the shipper from trading cars; advise the shipper of methodology used to determine car allocation; and implement the directives by the beginning of the 2007-2008 crop year, or Aug. 1.

CN officials believe the railroad has fully complied with the CTA’s ruling. However, western Canadian grain shippers continued to report “ongoing, systemwide service shortfalls” despite four meetings with the railroad since the July ruling and minor booking changes implemented by the Class I, according to the CWB.

The shippers sought an interim order from the CTA to suspend CN’s advance car booking program until the parties determined a resolution. CN officials decided to postpone the program and enter mediation.

If a resolution isn’t reached through mediation, the shippers plan to ask the CTA to rule on the complaints, the CWB said.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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