Alta. wheat growers call for rail improvements

The Alberta Wheat Commission is renewing calls for regulatory reforms that it says will lead to a more equitable relationship between railways and grain shippers.

In a Sept. 15 news release, the commission called for improved railway accountability through the introduction of reciprocal monetary penalties that could be applied against grain shippers or railway companies for failure to uphold the terms of a shipping contract.

It issued the news release a day before the federal government wrapped up its consultations on the Canada Transportation Act review.

“Now is the time when our government can provide long-term solutions to our grain transportation system, which will ultimately advance Canada’s economic growth,” said commission chair Kevin Auch.

“The current imbalance of market power allows railways to dictate operational terms instead of operating in a competitive commercial arrangement.”

In a submission to federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau, the wheat commission urged Ottawa to implement changes that would give shippers the ability to negotiate penalties and contract terms equal to those that are being imposed by the railways.

It said the Emerson Report failed to recommend a mechanism to address the imbalance in market power between railways and shippers.

The commission, which represents Alberta’s wheat growers, has put forward three major recommendations aimed at improving the grain transportation system:

• service level agreements that include mandatory reciprocal penalties for failure to perform to binding contract terms

•  retaining the railways revenue cap to protect producers against excessive freight rate increases

• improving interswitching provisions that compel railway companies to move rail cars for a competing railway company in areas that are served by only one railway operator

“AWC was pleased with the government’s actions towards extended interswitching measures from Bill C-30,” it said in its news release.

“Moving forward, we ask that the extended interswitching limits be made permanent and improved efficiencies are reviewed, such as increasing interchange capacities or extending limits to 250 kilometres to enable modern day train efficiencies.”

Auch said the commission’s recommendations would enhance Canada’s grain transportation system and allow Canada’s farmers to move grain in a more predictable and efficient manner.

Contact brian.cross@producer.com

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