Appeal court says CP Rail failed to meet service obligations after bridge fire

OTTAWA — The Federal Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling that Canadian Pacific Railway Co. failed to provide adequate rail service to Univar Canada, one of the country’s biggest chemical distributors, after the railway chose not to repair a Vancouver bridge damaged by fire.

The court agreed with a 2017 decision from Canada’s transportation regulator that found CP Rail had breached its service obligations when it opted to hold off on expensive repairs and bar traffic on its bridge for years.

The Marpole Bridge, which connects Vancouver to the island suburb of Richmond, has provided the only direct rail link to Univar’s facility since it opened in 1968.

The Canadian Transportation Agency stated in its February 2017 decision that the country’s second-largest railway violated its obligations, except during “reasonable pause” periods amounting to about a year and three months, in which it would have had time to repair the scorched trestles and restore direct service.

The agency ordered CP to pay Univar — whose Illinois-based parent company has a market value of about $3 billion — monthly compensation until the bridge is repaired or the rail line discontinued.

The federal court’s dismissal came down last Friday, with one of three panel judges writing a dissenting opinion that the agency failed to address CP’s economic arguments.

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