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7/10/2001



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

OmniTRAX awaits CTA's impending open-access decision


The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) might release its open access report July 18 — ending a long wait for OmniTRAX Inc. officials and their western Canadian grain branch-line servicing proposal.
The report is complete, but must be tabled in Canadian Parliament July 18 before public distribution, says OmniTRAX spokeswoman Genevieve Young, adding that the short-line holding company expects to analyze the report and issue a statement July 19.
OmniTRAX in September 2000 introduced CanRail West Inc., a short line that would provide service options to rural western Canadian communities, farmers and shippers by servicing grain branch lines owned by Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway.
Before OmniTRAX could begin using the Class Is' lines by year-end or in early 2002, CTA would have to approve and create open access by revising the Canadian Transportation Act — a decision OmniTRAX officials expected from CTA in late May or June.
CTA May 3 denied OmniTRAX's initial open-access attempt. The company's Hudson Bay Railway Co. had sought running rights to access CN's 1,500 track miles in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
But CN voiced opposition to OmniTRAX's proposal — and a similar proposal from Ferroequus Railway Co. Ltd. In counter moves, CN re-instituted an abandonment moratorium on its western Canadian grain-dependent branch lines, and proposed a road relief and shipper tax credit to the Canadian government, designed to lower shipper rates and divert 100 million tons of freight annually from trucks to rail.
CTA ruled it wouldn’t interpret Section 138 of the Canadian Transportation Act in a way that would enable the short lines to obtain running rights, and that the agency didn’t have the jurisdiction to grant OmniTRAX and Ferroequus Railway the right to operate on CN-owned track.
OmniTRAX officials had hoped the running-rights order would act as a bridge between CTA's open-access review process and the progress of ensuing legislation by providing grain network competition this summer.
Jeff Stagl


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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