Rail freight service – or the lack thereof – is becoming a campaign issue for federal NDP candidate Lois Boone.
Boone, along with NDP transportation, infrastructure and communities critic Dennis Bevington, has been in Fort St. John to discuss the recently released interim report from a federal rail freight service review.
The review was conducted by a board under the direction of Transport Canada and examined the services provided by the two main railway operators in Canada, the Canadian National Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Shippers from all different sectors, including mining, forestry, agriculture and oil and natural gas, rely on rail service to transport their products.
Bevington says the report has outlined four key problems with the overall railway system. The problems are with the service itself, the nature of service between local shippers and the rail service providers, the lack of a dispute mechanism and the condition of the railway system.
He says that a major issue of contention within the review is that it does not call for government regulation and enforcement of rail service across the country. Instead, it simply expects rail companies to voluntarily improve services and follow the recommendations set out in the report.
Several shippers from across Canada, including in the Peace River area, are in discussions with the rail service companies to negotiate new service agreements.
Boone says the northeast region of B.C. is particularly problematic.
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Bevington says that large shippers often have more influence to ensure a deal is reached, whereas all companies should have the ability to reach agreements with rail service providers, which might only happen with government regulation.
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The interim report can be viewed below. The final report has not yet been released.