Rail Infrastructure Investment-We Are Ready to Move

    HALIFAX, Jan. 16 /CNW/ -

    J.C. (Cliff) Mackay
    President and C.E.O
    The Railway Association of Canada

    Op/Ed- Rail Infrastructure Investment-We Are Ready to Move

    It should be no surprise to see Canada's railways back on the public
agenda. Momentous change in the world economy over the last number of years
has produced a transformation for the sector not seen since the Second World
War. Increased global trade has propelled growth. Increased environmental
concern has highlighted the virtues of rail as the greenest of transportation
modes. And now a global economic crisis and the need for economic stimulus
have many talking about major transportation infrastructure investments that
include rail.
    Canada's railways are a vital enabler of economic activity in Canada and
play a major role in communities across Canada. Our national freight railways,
commonly viewed as among the most efficient in the world, carry 75 per cent of
Canada's surface bound goods while more and more businesses choose rail as
their preferred mode of transportation. Passenger rail is now experiencing
unprecedented double digit growth rates, moving more than 68 million
passengers annually as more and more people choose to avoid congested
highways. Further, Canada is fortunate to have a well established, world class
railway supply industry employing many Canadians in large and small
communities throughout the country.
    Much of the recent public discourse on rail investment has been focused
on high speed passenger rail - a highly ambitious goal that must be pursued.
Receiving less attention is desperately needed short term investment in
identified rail infrastructure projects that will provide immediate stimulus
to the economy, create jobs for Canadians, support railway parts
manufacturing, and ensure a platform for future economic growth. There are
many rail infrastructure projects across the country that are ready to move
now which will help our economy rebound from the current crisis.
    The freight railways have identified a number of infrastructure projects,
including road/rail grade separations primarily located in Ontario and Québec
that require funding partnerships with the federal and provincial governments.
Grade separations significantly improve the safety and fluidity of the road
network, resulting in meaningful public benefits. Further, a well defined
proposal is on the table to support the upgrading of infrastructure for
Ontario's Short Lines, those smaller railways that service the province's
industrial and manufacturing heartland including mining, agriculture and
    Rail supplier investment would also help offset some declines in the
automotive sector, given that skills in the two industries are readily
transferable and located within the same manufacturing clusters throughout
Canada. This is the time to make these crucial investments to create jobs and
promote economic development. Most importantly, with the need for immediate
economic stimulus, work can begin right away, benefiting domestic suppliers
and employing Canadians.
    The growth of passenger rail in Canada has been nothing short of
spectacular; and with growth comes demand for increased capacity. Capacity can
be met in two ways: by putting more locomotives and passenger cars on the
track, and increasing the track capacity itself. Canadian-based manufacturers
have the ability to supply the required rolling stock and track components for
passenger rail-service providers. Unlike most other industrialized nations
which give preference to domestic suppliers for their public investment, no
such provision exists in Canada. This is an area that the federal government
must address to ensure that public funds are used to stimulate the domestic
economy and our Canadian manufacturers first.
    Each and every one of us in the rail industry want to see the day when
high speed rail service becomes a reality in Canada. However, high speed rail
should not overshadow the immediate infrastructure needs of Canada's railways
and the benefits such infrastructure work will provide to individual
Canadians, domestic suppliers and manufacturers and the overall Canadian
economy. The rail industry is well positioned to partner with governments, to
put shovels in the ground immediately and assist in moving the economy in the
right direction.

For further information:

For further information: Roger Cameron, (613) 564-8097

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