federal government's promised review of Canadian rail freight service
has taken a step forward with the final
terms of reference released
and a request for proposals issued for some of the work ahead.
"The fact that we are moving forward with this review
is good news for shippers of a broad range of commodity groups and will
benefit grain farmers as well," said Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon
in a release Tuesday.
"I am particularly interested in the development of
indicators that would help monitor system performance and expedite
improvements when problems arise."
The review, which is expected to take up to 18
months to complete, is to look at the services offered by Canadian
National (CN) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to shippers and
customers within Canada, including to and from ports and border
The scope of the review is to include Canada's
rail-based logistics chain, from shippers and terminal operators to
ports and vessels. The review was first announced as part of a package
of amendments to the Canada Transportation Act in May 2007, passed in
February this year.
The review's objectives will also include:
- identifying problems and issues with respect
to railway service including those stemming from other elements of
the logistics chain;
- for shippers located on shortlines, looking at
any problems with logistics and, if so, finding the sources of the
problem including service, operating, or marketing practices of the
main line carriers;
- determining best practices and how these can
be expanded to address service issues; and
- making recommendations on how to address these
problems and issues, "including both commercial and, if necessary,
The request for proposals has been issued for two
of the key projects under the review's first stage, which includes the
"quantitative and analytical work," as the terms of reference described
The first project is to focus on describing key
elements of the logistics chain and conducting a quantitative analysis
of the railways' ability to fulfill shipping orders and to provide
consistent transit times in moving traffic from origin to destination.
The second project is to examine operating
practices within the rail-based logistics system and identify those
practices that adversely affect service to shippers.
The government also plans to hire a consultant for
a third project: a survey on railway best practices and issues.
Transport Canada will handle a fourth project: an assessment of how
service issues are addressed in other transportation sectors and in
regulated industries in Canada and the U.S., such as phone, TV, gas,
hydroelectricity and U.S. rail.
Between those four projects, the first stage is
expected to take a "minimum of six months, depending on the availability
of required data and the extent of co-operation from railways, shippers
and terminal operators in providing such data."
The second stage of the review will then be led by
a panel of three "eminent persons" who would consult on and develop
recommendations to address the problems identified. The second stage is
expected to take about six months.
The government, in the review's terms of reference,
said the panel's members would "preferably" consist of one with a
railway background, one with a shipping background and one member who's
That panel would be set up near the completion of
the first stage and would issue its final report to the federal
The panel would come up with draft recommendations
based on the results of the analytical projects. "Interested parties"
would then be invited to submit comments on railway service and other
logistics chain issues, which the panel would also take into
The draft recommendations and reports from the
analytical stage would be circulated to interested parties. The panel
would then consult with stakeholders after these documents are