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CN should improve service for Naber Seed outside of open access, CTA says


Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) June 11 ruled that Canadian National Railway Co. failed to fulfill its common carrier obligations during crop year 2000/2001 for Naber Seed & Grain Co. Ltd., which last year filed three complaints against CN with CTA, but stopped short of opening the Class I's lines to competing railroads.
The agency determined that CN failed to provide adequate and suitable service by rationing hopper cars for Naber's facilities at Melfort and Star City, Saskatchewan, and Kathryn, Alberta.
CTA officials believe CN's grain-handling and transportation system is not geared to meet the needs of special crop shippers, but is adapted to optimize the railroad's asset utilization and meet major grain shippers' needs.
The agency also determined that Naber "has no practical transportation alternative and is captive to rail service provided by CN" at its three processing plants, leading CTA to "find an effective remedy" to improve the shipper's service, according to a prepared statement.
CTA ordered CN to maintain 11 operational measures dealing with car ordering, allocation, spotting and related issues. Agency officials believe the combination of measures would provide Naber with more regular and reliable service, and improve the shipper's capacity to plan product processing and distribution.
CTA plans to monitor the situation for one year, requiring the parties to report to the agency monthly.
However, the agency's remedies don't include one requested by Naber: The shipper asked CTA to grant Hudson Bay Railway Co. the right to operate trains over CN's lines in Melfort and Star City.
CTA concluded that there are other alternatives available at this time to remedy the situation.
Which is fine by CN: the Class I believes CTA's decision offers specific remedies without needing to test open-access waters.
"Forced access is not the way to go because it creates inefficiencies and safety problems, and makes it difficult for CN and other Class Is to generate capital from investments in operations," says CN spokesman Mark Hallman, adding that CTA also turned down Naber's request for a stricter service program.
And service already is improving for Naber and other grain shippers: CN about a year ago implemented a new car-ordering system that's more tailored to special crop shippers' service needs, says Hallman.
Jeff Stagl

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/12/2002