A group representing the shippers of more than 60 per cent of the goods moved on Canada’s rail system is urging the railways to work with them on a customer-based approach to improve service.

The move comes a week after the federal government introduced its Fair Rail for Grain Growers Act – new legislation aimed at clearing a backlog of grain on Canada’s Prairies.

While sympathetic to the immediate challenges faced by the grain shippers, a group of five national trade associations – including the Canadian Fertilizer Institute, the Canadian Steel Producers Association, the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, the Forest Products Association of Canada, and the Mining Association of Canada – is concerned that a sector-by-sector approach will not address broader issues faced across the system.

“We feel that addressing one sector’s concerns without considering the broader supply chain, will result in a patchwork of policies that don’t solve any fundamental issues. This could ultimately jeopardize Canada’s economic growth,” said Pierre Gratton, President and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada.

“Shippers, railways and the government need to take a holistic look at the challenges facing Canada’s transportation system, and develop sustainable commercial solutions that are good for all sectors, the railways, and the Canadian economy,” said Roger Larson, President of the Canadian Fertilizer Institute.

“We would welcome working with the railways as part of that process.”

Current rail bottlenecks are hurting the ability of many Canadian industries to get their goods to markets in Canada and abroad, to attract investment, and to create jobs. According to Ron Watkins, President of the Canadian Steel Producers Association, this group of shippers hopes to “foster supply-chain collaboration, and provide the federal government with recommendations for improving rail service during its review of the Canada Transportation Act later this year.”

“Canada’s prosperity depends on exports and we will all benefit if we enhance shipping capacity, said David Lindsay, President and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada.

“Our long-term goal is to work with our partners to right-size the transportation system.”