Vancouver port highlights rail importance for panel

VANCOUVER — Port Metro Vancouver stressed the importance of rail service to the success of Canada’s Asia Pacific Gateway as the federal government continues to review freight service.

In a detailed submission to the Transport Canada Rail Freight Service Review Panel, the port called on Ottawa to implement a commercial approach to defining, measuring, monitoring and ensuring a high level of rail service.

"Optimal rail performance is a critical factor in achieving the port’s goal to develop the most reliable and consistent supply chain in North America," says Robin Silvester, president and CEO of Port Metro Vancouver. "We are confident that the Rail Freight Service Review will lead to meaningful and actionable recommendations for government’s consideration in its effort to maximize Canadian trade."

Port Metro Vancouver’s submission to the panel was based on consultations and evidence gathered from more than 50 organizations including rail customers, stakeholders, railways and industry associations.

The port’s report says the rail freight system currently serving the port works reasonably well at a broad level, but lacks the consistency and reliability necessary to meet customer and stakeholder needs and capitalize on Canada’s trade growth potential.

To address these and other issues, Port Metro Vancouver recommends a commercial approach to rail service matters that includes developing and implementing service agreements, providing a commercial dispute resolution mechanism to address problems, expanding the use of rail assets and networks through commercially negotiated co-production agreements, and implementing independent monitoring to evaluate and report on performance.

In the event that a commercial approach fails to deliver the required improvements in supply chain performance then the port notes that a more wide ranging review of the regulatory environment would be needed.

The port also recommends amending the Canada Transportation Act to confirm that port authorities and terminals can bring a complaint before the agency, and expanding existing Level of Services provisions to support adequate, consistent, reliable and cost-effective rail services.

"Every participant in the supply chain must commit to reciprocal accountability for delivery of required, defined, service standards," adds Silvester. "We believe we can achieve optimized results while respecting the need for supply chain participants to earn a fair commercial return that motivates ongoing investment."

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