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Federal budget short-changes Canadian railroads, RAC says


Canada's federal budget, publicly released Dec. 10, isn't sitting well with Railway Association of Canada (RAC).
Although the Canadian parliament earmarked $380 million for border infrastructure improvements and $1.2 billion for strategic infrastructure initiatives tied to moving goods, RAC President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Rowat believes those appropriations focus more on trucking concerns.
"The railway industry is disappointed that the government chose an old-style approach to infrastructure spending by paving the border with asphalt," he said in a prepared statement. "The government failed to complement public-sector spending with support for private-sector options, including state-of-the-art intermodal freight solutions with trucks and containers on rail cars."
Rowat believes public infrastructure investment should be allocated between all modes based on individual merit; Short lines, for example, should receive governmental funding assistance to upgrade track for 286,000-pound rail cars and become compatible with new North American railroad operating standards.
He also claims the federal budget fails to address what RAC perceives is an unbalanced tax system for Canadian railways: "They pay twice as much as their American competitors and 29 percent more than Canadian trucking [firms] — that makes Canadian goods less competitive in international markets," Rowat said.
However, he does commend the government for including post-Sept. 11 security measures within the budget. But Rowat requests that parliamentary members readdress what he believes is an imbalance between highways and rail.
"[Congestion problems] are partly a result of skewed policies that foster even greater use of our public road system by big trucks that cover about half of their road and bridge impact costs — rail, on the other hand, finances, builds, maintains and pays taxes on its infrastructure," he said.

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More News from 12/11/2001