Agency to investigate possible freight rail problems in Vancouver
A Canadian Pacific Railway train passes through a crossing on a rural road in Delta, B.C., on Sunday February 5, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
GATINEAU, Que. -- The Canadian Transportation Agency will investigate possible problems with freight train service issues in the Vancouver area including whether rail companies are fulfilling their obligations.
The agency said in a news release Monday that it's the first time it is using its new authority to launch such an investigation, which will also determine whether there was discriminatory treatment of certain commodities.
Agency chairman Scott Streiner said it will hold public hearings, allowing parties to submit evidence and offer suggestions on how things could be improved.
The agency said hearings will be held at the end of January and give railway companies and shipper groups an opportunity to provide evidence.
The Forests Products Association of Canada said in a release that it welcomes the investigation, adding that rail delays last year cost the forest sector over $500 million.
Keith Creel, president and CEO of Canadian Pacific Railway, said in a statement he "takes great exception" to being included in the investigation.
"We have not been made aware of any formal complaints to the CTA relating to our service in Vancouver, nor has the CTA been in touch with us prior to launching this investigation," he says.
"The fact is that CP has achieved record-setting performance in Vancouver thanks to our talented team of railroaders who work day and night to make it one of the best performing terminals in North America."
The company says it broke a previous record for carloads of Western Canadian grain and grain products shipped to the Port of Vancouver in a single month in November. CP Rail says it has worked with CN in Vancouver to help ease congestion in Vancouver.
"Are we perfect 100 per cent of the time? No," said Creel. "When we are not performing to the requisite level of service, I will be the first to step up and acknowledge it. The flip side of that coin is: when we are subject to unsubstantiated action, I will be the first to step up and defend the men and women who make this operation run."
Canadian National Railway said it will co-operate fully and that the investigation should take into account the full supply chain and dozens of players involved late last year.
"CN acted swiftly and efficiently to serve its customers during this period and played its role in moving record volumes through Vancouver's complex and multi-commodity supply chain," the statement said. "During this period, CN moved 10 per cent more freight through Vancouver than last year."
The agency said it concluded an investigation would be appropriate based on information received from shipper associations and other parties.
It requested authorization from Transport Minister Marc Garneau and says it was given approval for the investigation by him on Friday.