CN Urges ‘More Balanced Perspective’ Towards EJ&E Purchase

Western Ave. will close April 19

Western Ave. is due to close for one week at the EJ&E Railroad tracks for 8 days starting Saturday, April 19. (Photo: ENEWSPF)

Chicago, IL—(ENEWSPF)— Canadian National issued a statement last month stating that the controversy around the purported environmental impacts of its proposed EJ&E acquisition appears to be exaggerated.  According to the company, such discussion “is not conducive to a sound public interest review of the transaction.”

CN plans to acquire the principal lines of the EJ&E for US$300 million and to spend an additional US$100 million to upgrade the EJ&E and construct new connections to improve the efficiency of its operation. The transaction would significantly reduce rail congestion in the urban core of Chicago and add much needed capacity to the U.S. rail network.

CN’s argues that its preliminary assessment, conducted as part of its efforts to plan for mitigation opportunities and pro-actively reach out to affected communities, suggests that from an environmental standpoint:

  • traffic delays at crossings would be reduced for the Chicago region as a whole;
  • noise and other environmental impacts appear to be manageable and subject to proper mitigation in partnership with affected communities.

According to CN, their plan would significantly reduce rail congestion in the urban core of Chicago and add much needed capacity to the U.S. rail network.  Park Forest, however, would not be so lucky.

CN informed the Village of Park Forest and other municipalities along the tracks of their plans to increase the number of trains from 8 a day to 32 a day.  This increase does not appear to bother CN.  The company says, “Of course, the communities along the EJ&E arc would experience an increase in train counts, but the traffic volume and resulting crossing delays are not in anyway out of the ordinary. CN’s operating plan for the EJ&E would put an additional 15 to 24 trains per day on the EJ&E line. By comparison, a number of communities inside the EJ&E arc have for a long time coexisted harmoniously with rail lines carrying more than 100 trains per day.”

“Our preliminary review of the 99 at-grade crossings along the EJ&E where train counts will increase suggests that gates would be down a total of less than 10 percent of the day at the average crossing, and the added vehicular delay would be between 5 to 10 seconds per driver. As compared to the situation as it exists today, even those motorists who will happen to be stopped at a gate would only have to wait around an additional 40 seconds before the freight trains clear the average crossing. For motorists, this would not be much different than having to face one more traffic light in their journey.”

The statement from CN does not address Park Forest specifically, where it is not uncommon for trains to come to a complete stop while motorists sometimes wait as long as 20 minutes for the tracks to clear.

Resident George Fabian wants to see more from CN, “I would be all for the acquisition if they put either an overpass or underpass at their tracks on Western Ave.”

“I think it’s logical that they would spread the problems out, but I’m not in favor of it.  They need more overpasses or underpasses,”  said Trustee Ken Kramer.

The company also announced last month that members of the United Transportation Union (UTU) employed on its former Illinois Central and Chicago, Central & Pacific properties in the Midwest and Southern U.S. have renewed — for the first time — an hourly rate agreement for conductors and brakemen.
The four-year labor pact, covering approximately 600 employees, is retroactive to Aug. 1, 2006, and runs through July 31, 2010.

Kim Madigan, CN vice-president of Labor Relations, said: “CN is pleased that the UTU membership has ratified this agreement and thanks the UTU leadership for their support of it. Both parties appreciate how this new type of agreement not only improves CN operations and customer service, but also our employees’ compensation and quality of life.”

The hourly rate of compensation for operating employees is a break from traditional railroad mileage- and rules-based pay systems. The hourly rate concept enhances employee productivity while giving UTU members a better balance between work and home lives.

CN has hourly rate agreements in place for virtually all of its U.S. train and engine employees.

CN will issue its first-quarter 2008 financial and operating results on April 21, 2008, shortly after 4 p.m. Eastern time (ET). CN’s senior officers will review the results and the railway’s outlook that afternoon in a conference call/webcast starting at 4.30 p.m. ET.

Source: CN.ca