Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/4/2011 (3329 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
CENTREPORT Canada is about to embark on the development of a common-use rail facility -- the first proprietary on-site development it has initiated.
The management and marketing operation behind the 20,000-acre inland port is starting the process of figuring out how to go about retaining professional services that specialize in enhanced rail facilities.
"I'm not sure if there is an exact duplicate for what we are thinking about," said Diane Gray, CEO of CentrePort Canada. "What we want to do is find a model that works for all three Class 1 rail carriers."
In its recently issued 2011-12 business plan, CentrePort Canada stated one of its strategic priorities for the year is "increasing rail services at CentrePort Canada."
But Gray stressed in an interview there are no preconceived notions about what form that might take or exactly where it will be located. "The key part is working with industry to get it right," she said. "We have always said, right from Day 1, that the success of CentrePort will hinge on capitalizing on the fact that Winnipeg is served by three Class 1 rail carriers."
She said the facility might be for bulk staging of commodities as opposed to a focus on containers.
"The goal is to complement facilities the rail carriers already have, not to supplant or duplicate them," she said. "It is about creating a competitive advantage for businesses locating at CentrePort and allowing them good access to all three carriers."
CN and CPR both have intermodal yards elsewhere and Gray said it was never part of the CentrePort vision they would relocate to the inland port's airport location.
But she said some sort of shared facility that could increase volumes for all three carriers, while at the same time create competitive pricing for businesses that locate at CentrePort, would benefit all CentrePort stakeholders.
Cliff Mackay, president and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada, which represents all of the large and small railroad companies across the country, said this type of arrangement is not unique in the industry.
"There are other examples of companies working in partnership on facilities with large volumes of traffic," he said.
Mackay pointed out the Port of Montreal has a sophisticated rail operation that is used by many of its partners and customers. CentrePort has set aside $100,000 in its most recent $1-million annual budget to figure out the terms and reference needed to engage specialized consultants to help come up with a plan.
Gray is to speak at a NASCO trade corridor coalition conference in mid-May in Kansas City and intends to speak to people there who have some expertise in common-use enhanced rail facilities.
The expectation is a formal request for proposals will be issued later this year to design the business model.
She said the ultimate cost of the facility is not known, but the thinking is that eventually partners may be sought to help fund the project.
There may not be many details as to what the facility will end up looking like, but there is a general idea of where it might be located.
In last month's provincial budget, the province said it "will provide several hundred acres of land purchased from Canadian Pacific Railway to CentrePort Canada to support the future development of the site."
Gray said details of that transaction have yet to be worked out, but she acknowledged the common-use rail facility will be located on that land -- the first patch of the 20,000-acre footprint CentrePort itself will own.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
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