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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Transport Minister Collenette lays out Canada's transportation blueprint


On Feb. 25, Canadian Transport Minister David Collenette released "Straight Ahead - A Vision for Transportation in Canada," a policy framework and principles designed to guide the country's future transportation decisions.

"I believe the framework we have set out in this document will allow the transportation system to successfully meet the economic, social and environmental needs of the next decade and beyond," Collenette said in a prepared statement.

The document covers long-term transportation issues, ranging from airline and railroad competition issues to critical infrastructure needs, environmental pressures, and safety and security concerns.

For the railroad industry, Straight Ahead recommends a recourse for rail shippers in complaint cases and ways to improve rail competition; a comprehensive review process for merger proposals, such as between Canadian and American railways; and new legislation for VIA Rail and legislative amendments designed to strengthen publicly funded passenger-rail services.

The document introduces amendments to the Canada Transportation Act that, if enacted, would no longer require the Canadian Transportation Agency to assess whether a shipper would suffer "substantial commercial harm" before giving a shipper access to a regulatory remedy against a railroad; enable the agency to review railway noise complaints, and require railroads to keep noise to a minimum when constructing or operating a railway; and modify provisions governing how companies dispose of lines no longer required for freight service.

The policies and Canada Transportation Act amendments might be enacted during the next decade pending various governmental approvals.

Canadian National Railway Co. officials believe the document "misses an opportunity to further de-regulate the nation's rail transportation system," especially the grain sector, according to a prepared statement.

The minister's plan to remove the substantial commercial harm clause would invite shippers to "increasingly resort to the regulator, rather than a commercial agenda, on rate- and service-related issues," said E. Hunter Harrison, CN president and chief executive officer.

"Even the minister's CTA Review Panel said government transportation policy should be driven by market forces and that regulatory intervention should be a very last resort," he said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/25/2003