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CP reiterates call for more fluid service at Chicago rail hub


CALGARY, Alta.–Canadian Pacific has┬áreiterated that a coast-to-coast railway combination would not only alleviate congestion in the key Chicago hub but would enhance fluidity and create new opportunities for competitors to provide improved service to their own customers, many of whom will receive no rail service at all during the upcoming holiday period.

CP said that it recognizes that the North American economy does not take vacations and many shippers require 24/7 service 365 days a year through Chicago.

But Chicago is where six of North America’s largest railways converge, making it the busiest and most important freight hub on the continent, CP said in a release. Local communities and businesses from Illinois to British Columbia to the Gulf of Mexico depend on the efficiency of Chicago’s rail system and any lengthy disruption will impact jobs.

CP also notes that the most vocal opponents to a CP/Norfolk Southern Corp. merger that would improve shipper optionality through and around Chicago will halt service for up to two full days during the Christmas period.

Union Pacific Corp. will halt service through Chicago from 7:00 a.m. local time Dec. 24 to 7:00 a.m. Dec. 26. CSX Corp. will shut down from 3:00 p.m. Dec. 24 until 7:00 a.m. on Dec. 26 and Norfolk Southern will close from 2:00 p.m. Dec. 24 to 11:00 p.m. on Dec. 25.

“We have a responsibility to our customers not to forget that gridlock in Chicago crippled the industry in the winter of 2014 and threatened to cripple the economy,” said Keith Creel, CP President and Chief Operating Officer. “We need to work together as an industry to keep Chicago fluid and the economy growing, and innovation is the key.”

Beginning mid-December, the winter of 2013-2014 saw the third heaviest snowfall on record in Chicago, which coincided with the third coldest temperatures in the city’s history. The combination of snow and cold wreaked havoc on Chicago’s already congested rail facilities, forcing some railroads to suspend interchange operations for as long as two days well into January and backing up freight deliveries for months.

A full shut down of service through Chicago by a number of railroads would prevent an agile response to sudden shifts in weather conditions and customer demand, and would further compound the impact of the severe winter weather that Chicago is known for.

“Our economy runs year round and shippers must be able to get their goods to market in a timely fashion, regardless of the date or the amount of snow on the ground,” Creel said. “Optionality, agility, efficiency and service are at the heart of our proposal and we urge all stakeholders to examine the benefits of a CP-NS combination.”

CP said it strongly believes that the combined railroad would offer unparalleled customer service and competitive rates that will support the success of the shippers and industries it serves, and satisfy the U.S. Surface Transportation Board and Canadian regulators.

In addition to improving fluidity through Chicago, the combined company would provide other innovations, including a new approach to terminal access that would change the status quo in U.S. rail transportation. In the event the new company failed to provide adequate service or competitive rates, it would allow another carrier to operate from a point of connection over the combined company’s tracks and into its terminals, providing an unprecedented alternative to the affected shipper.