CTA issues determination on freight rail service issues in the Vancouver area: CN breached its service obligations
April 15, 2019 – Gatineau, QC – Canadian Transportation Agency
The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) issued today its determination on possible freight rail service issues in the Vancouver area following an investigation launched on its own motion, with the authorization of the Minister of Transport.
The CTA found that Canadian National Railway Company (CN) breached its level of service obligations by announcing its intention to impose embargoes on wood pulp shipments in September 2018, several months before rail congestion and other challenges emerged in the Vancouver area, and imposing those embargoes in December 2018, rather than making every reasonable effort to deal with those challenges before unilaterally restricting the transportation of the shippers' traffic.
The CTA found that Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CP) and BNSF Railway Company (BNSF), the two other railway companies investigated, had not breached their service obligations.
The CTA ordered CN to develop and submit a plan to respond to future traffic surges in the Vancouver area and to avoid, or minimize, the use of embargoes. The determination also sets out criteria for the lawful use of embargoes, including that they be imposed only on an exceptional basis, be targeted to address specific challenges, and be lifted as soon as possible.
The CTA initiated this investigation on January 14, 2019, based on information received from shipper associations and other parties. This was the first own motion investigation undertaken by the CTA under a provision added to the Canada Transportation Act in May 2018.
The investigation process included the submission of written information by the railway companies and some shipper associations, and a public hearing in Vancouver at the end of January.
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"Freight rail service is essential to manufacturers, farmers, importers, shippers, and the Canadian economy. Through this investigation, the CTA was able to quickly look into possible issues with rail service in the Vancouver area that were brought to its attention in late 2018 and early 2019. The determination provides all parties will greater clarity on when rail service embargoes are, and are not, lawful."
– Scott Streiner, Chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency
About the CTA
The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal and regulator that has, with respect to all matters necessary for the exercise of its jurisdiction, all the powers of a superior court. The CTA has three core mandates: helping to keep the national transportation system running efficiently and smoothly, protecting the fundamental right of persons with disabilities to accessible transportation services, and providing consumer protection for air passengers. To help advance these mandates, the CTA makes and enforces ground rules that establish the rights and responsibilities of transportation service providers and users and level the playing field among competitors, resolves disputes using a range of tools from facilitation and mediation to arbitration and adjudication, and ensures that transportation providers and users are aware of their rights and responsibilities and how the CTA can help them. www.otc-cta.gc.ca
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