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CTA Decision on Freight Rail Investigation

In January 2019, the The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), an independent regulator, opened an investigation into ongoing rail service issues in the Port of Vancouver. The purpose of the investigation was to make a determination on whether the railway companies have fulfilled their service obligations with respect to freight rail service in the Vancouver area.” (Letter Decision No.2 Let-R-29-2019). On April 15, the CTA issued its determination and finding that the Canadian National Railway breached its service obligations. Full conclusion from the CTA as follows:

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.”

Further information can be found from the CTA website or visit AGCanada.com for a thorough summary.