CPR’S Ritchie calls for public-private partnerships to boost rail services

by Canadian Shipper

It is time for North American governments to invest more in the continent’s rail infrastructure through public-private partnerships to address such major public-policy issues as border security, traffic congestion and air pollution, says Rob Ritchie, President and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Pacific Railway.

According to Ritchie, railroad public-private partnerships can save shippers, the public and governments billions of dollars in return for relatively small investment. He cited a report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), which concluded public investment in freight railroads of $4 billion a year over a 20-year period would save shippers $401 billion, highway users $635 billion and highway costs of $27 billion.

"Rail has solutions to some of the biggest public-policy issues that our federal, state, provincial and local governments are grappling with today,” Ritchie said in a speech to the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association’s annual conference. “Big issues like: the traffic congestion that is plaguing our cities; the deterioration of our overburdened highways; post 9/11 border security; air pollution; and the efficiency, productivity and competitiveness of the North American economy.”

Railroads move over 40 per cent of freight shipped between cities in the U.S. However, Ritchie says “given the projections for economic and freight-tonnage growth, there is also a need for a level of investment that is greater than the railways are capable of funding on their own”.

Ritchie’s model calls for the public sector and the railways to jointly invest in projects that require government investment as a catalyst to provide services with public benefits.

“I am saying that where there is a public benefit – like reducing road congestion and increasing economic productivity – public participation is appropriate.”

He added there are many viable P3 proposals already on the table. One example he offered is the discussions between the railroad industry and the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois on a proposed $1.2-billion infrastructure project to speed freight and passengers to, through, and around Chicago.

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