The mud slinging betweeen Canada’s railroads and truckers is on again with the Canadian Railway Association taking the offensive.
Bill Rowat, president and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada, claims in a release that the policy changes needed to develop a forward-looking transportation policy for Canada are within Canadian control and reach, if the policies can begin to encompass a national scope and stop handicapping rail while allowing other modes an easier ride. “These changes require governments to work together in their enlightened self-interest. Canada is a trading nation, and has the most trade-dependent economy of the G-7 nations. But many of its public policies don’t reinforce that regional economic reality or national strategic strength ” says Rowat, whose association represents 54 freight and passenger railways operating in Canada.<
Rowat says current government tax and regulatory policies give Canadian rail a 52-per cent tax handicap, compared with U.S. railroads. “Rail pays all the costs of its own corridors, including property taxes, while trucking doesn’t, and can carry more of the freight and passenger load, help reduce road congestion, pollution and fuel consumption,” Rowat claims.
Rail also has a small environmental foot-print, and is very fuel efficient, according to Rowat. But he adds air and road, which he brands “the most fuel intensive modes of transport” are growing the most rapidly. According to Rowate between 1995 and 2020, air freight is forecast to grow at 90 per cent, and truck freight, 61 per cent. Rail is forecast to grow at 38 per cent. Domestic marine freight is stagnant, but international container freight is growing rapidly. Passenger vehicle travel will grow 36 per cent by 2020, and air travel by 53 per cent.
“The bottom line is that this growth will strain public infrastructure, particularly along Ontario’s busiest corridors and trade highways. Intermodal connectors tie the transportation system together to marry the best features of different modes. An integrated network would make the greatest use of existing rail capacity as an alternative to costly expansion of congested highways,” said Rowat.
He pointed out that Canada is integrating its economy with the U.S., which has an intermodal transportation policy. Its Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st century — a 200 billion dollar U.S. program — promotes all modes of transportation. Canadian policies must also be continental in vision.
Rowat also said that Canada’s marine ports cannot be competitive without railways. Canadian rail-port partnerships compete with U.S. routes. Overseas marine trade was 70 billion dollars in 1998, and the output exported through West Coast ports in Canada provides 143,000 jobs in production and transportation alone, he says.