In a meeting with the federal government last week, the Railway Association of Canada’s 40 short line and regional railway members said they felt that Canada’s deregulation agenda has been a success, that the rail transport system is working well, and that there is no need for regulatory intervention, especially during an economic downturn.
“The focus of transportation policy in future, however, should be on increased modal balance,” said RAC President and CEO Bill Rowat.
Rowat said that future transportation policy should include the greater use of intermodal technology and services, encourage social, financial and environmental sustainability, and allow carriers to attract investment and recover their costs.
“Canada’s current tax system is unfair to its railways, and should be changed. Our railways pay twice as much tax as U.S. railroads, and 29 per cent more than Canadian trucking,” he said.
He said public infrastructure investment should be allocated between all modes, including railways, based on individual project merit.
“Short line railways need to upgrade their track and structures to handle 286,000 pounds and be compatible with new North American railroad operating standards. That will require assistance from provincial and federal governments, as well as the railway partner. Our short line members have become significant players in Canada’s transportation network as feeder systems to the long-haul, high-volume carriers,” said Rowat.
Track operated by short lines in Canada has grown to 12,750 km, an increase from 10 per cent to 27 per cent over the past decade. Carloads originated on short lines have doubled — from 15 to 30 per cent, during the same period.
“A small, one-issue group of outsiders continues to press for special access privileges. That would result in significant administrative challenges and costs, jeopardize infrastructure investments and system sustainability, and potentially destabilize the industry. None of these are in the best interest of either the railways or shippers,” said Rowat.
He said RAC’s short line and regional railways were pleased that the CTA Review Panel’s report rejected the OmniTRAX proposal for special track access.
The Panel recommended granting access only in exceptional circumstances that
are in the public interest.
“Our short line members are concerned, though, that the criteria for developing the public interest test may not be included in final legislation,” said Rowat.
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