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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Canadian transportation policy needs less regulation, more funds for short lines, RAC's Rowat says


Railway Association of Canada (RAC) Nov. 9 urged Canada's minister of transport not to consider regulatory intervention as part of a new blueprint for the Canada Transportation Act (CTA).

"The focus of transportation policy in the future should be on increased modal balance," said RAC President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Rowat in a prepared statement, adding that policy should encourage greater use of intermodal technology and services, and enable carriers to attract investment and recover costs.

Rowat also believes public infrastructure investment should be allocated between all modes based on individual project merit.

"Short lines need to upgrade their track and structures to handle 286,000-pound [cars] and be compatible with new North American railroad operating standards," he said. "Our short line members have become significant players in Canada's transportation network as feeder systems to the long-haul, high-volume carriers."

RAC — which represents 56-member Class I, regional, short line, passenger and tourist railroads — is concerned about OmniTRAX Inc.'s and Ferroequus Railway Co.'s attempts to gain open access to Canadian National Railway Co.'s and Canadian Pacific Railway's western Canada tracks to serve grain shippers.

"That would result in significant administrative challenges and costs, jeopardize infrastructure investments and system sustainability, and potentially de-stabilize the industry," said Rowat.

To date, CTA Review Panel has recommended granting open access only in exceptional circumstances believed to be in the public interest.

"Our short line members are concerned that the criteria for developing the public interest test may not be included in final legislation," said Rowat.