CN-CP Chicago interchange dispute heads to mediation

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WASHINGTON – The Surface Transportation Board has ordered Canadian National and Canadian Pacific to participate in board-sponsored mediation to solve their Chicago interchange dispute.

The Canadian railroads have been unable to reach an agreement on how to share the costs of moving their Chicago interchange. CN aimed to move the interchange from Spaulding in Bartlett, Ill., not far from CP’s Bensenville Yard, to CN’s Kirk Yard in Gary, Ind., effective May 10.

“The board expects that CN and CP will maintain the status quo and continue to interchange rail cars at Spaulding while they mediate this dispute,” the board wrote in a decision released late Thursday.

CP opposes the move and argues that CN cannot unilaterally shift the interchange. Earlier this month CP asked the STB to declare Kirk Yard an unreasonable interchange location and to issue a preliminary injunction to keep the interchange at Spaulding until an acceptable agreement can be reached.

CN subsequently said the railroads had reached an operational agreement. CN would deliver CP’s cars to the Indiana Harbor Belt, which would forward them to CP’s Bensenville Yard. CP, in turn, would use trackage rights over Belt Railway of Chicago to reach the terminal road’s Clearing Yard, where CN would pick up the traffic and bring it to Kirk Yard.

But CP said it would not deliver cars to CN at Clearing in the absence of a “lawful replacement interchange location.” It also wanted CN to pick up the tab for trackage rights fees CP would incur to reach Clearing via the BRC.

CN has said that Spaulding is no longer an efficient interchange location because switching ties up its single-track main line, which leads to congestion on CN’s system and blocks area grade crossings.

The railroads will have 30 days to iron out their differences once mediation begins, although the board may extend the period if both railroads request more time.
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