CTA determines CN breached service obligations on freight rail service in Vancouver area with wood pulp embargo

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CTA determines CN breached service obligations on freight rail service in Vancouver area with wood pulp embargo

April 18, 2019 - 06:39
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Mid-April, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) issued 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.