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Canada needs to stay deregulation course for grain transportation, CN's Ruest says


If Canada re-regulates grain transportation, Canadian National Railway Co. would be "discouraged" from investing in the sector and the nation might return to taxpayer-subsidized grain moves.

That's the message CN Senior Vice President of Marketing Jean-Jacques Ruest shared Monday at the Canada Grain Council's annual meeting in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Canada must remain on the path toward a fully deregulated grain transportation market to drive investments and boost efficiency, he said.

Deregulation has led to competitive rail rates for grain, enabling railroads to generate sufficient returns for reinvestment, said Ruest. During the past few years, CN has improved hopper car velocity and steadily increased shipments of Canadian Wheat Board grains. In the current crop year, the railroad has increased grain unloadings to export vessels as a result of using three ports and three transportation corridors.

Ruest believes grain capacity and efficiency would stand to gain from seven-day-a-week operations at Pacific gateway ports, full utilization of all ports, and a better balance between bulk vessel and container vessel shipments, and inland and waterfront container loading.

"Canada already has one of the best rail systems in the world, but we can make it even better for grain transportation if all stakeholders work together better to challenge the status quo and reach commercial consensus on required improvements in the system," he said.