CP, grain handlers plan for face time

(Dave Bedard photo)

Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) and players in the Prairie grain industry are ready to sit down at the same table and discuss logistics issues, representatives from both industries said.

In a media release last week, CP CEO Hunter Harrison said the railway has contacted customers and stakeholders such as the Western Grain Elevator Association (WGEA).

Harrison said CP representatives “look forward to further constructive dialogue in person, rather than through the media.”

Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the WGEA, confirmed that he had received a call from CP and is now waiting to hear more details on the timing of and agenda for a meeting.

“It could be a productive discussion and one that we would be open to,” he said.

Harrison said a meeting would give stakeholders such as the WGEA “a better understanding of supply chain realities and everything CP is doing to continue to move record amounts of grain.”

Along with gaining an understanding of CP’s operational realities, Sobkowich said, the WGEA could use such a meeting “as an opportunity to bring them up to speed on the business realities that we face when we’re trying to make sales and get product to our customers.”

Both CP and Canadian National Railway (CN) have been under fire in recent months as they’ve struggled to move the 2013 crop to port.

Earlier this year the federal government mandated the railways allocate a minimum of 5,500 cars a week to grain through an order in council.

The House of Commons last week also passed Bill C-30, known as the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act, which would force railways to compensate farmers and grain companies for losses caused by shipping delays. [Related story]

The Senate on Tuesday took C-30 to second reading and referred it to the standing Senate committee on agriculture and forestry for further review.

International grain firm Louis Dreyfus Commodities last month also levelled a service complaint against CN under the Canada Transportation Act. The company owns several Prairie elevators, a canola crushing plant and a port terminal on the St. Lawrence River. [Related]

Sections 113-116 of the Act require railways provide “adequate and suitable accommodation for the receiving and loading of all traffic offered for carriage on the railway.”

Harrison noted last week that CP has met or exceeded the order in council and stated that CP’s grain volumes from September 2013 to April 2014 were 10 per cent higher than the same period last year.

“CP is moving grain in all available lanes but we need to move grain to fluid outlets with strong cycle times to move as much grain as possible as quickly as possible,” said Harrison.

“This is a capacity problem and the Canadian supply chain needs to be searching for a capacity solution. Rail is only one element of the supply chain.”

— Lisa Guenther is a field editor for Grainews at Livelong, Sask. Follow her at @LtoG on Twitter.

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Field Editor

Lisa Guenther

Lisa Guenther is field editor for Grainews based at Livelong, Sask. You can follow her on Twitter @LtoG.

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