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Canadian Pacific Railway and the future of St. Luc Yard and the Les Cèdres Intermodal project:

December 23, 2012

Canadian Pacific Railway and the future of St. Luc Yard and the Les Cèdres Intermodal project as published in the Hudson/St. Lazare Gazette,  Wed., Dec. 19, 2012:


Highway 30 CP losing intermodal market to CSX

CSX train loaded with Maersk containers crosses Valleyfield’s Larocque Bridge. With Highway 30 added to daily service between northeastern U.S. seaports and a new intermodal terminal in Valleyfield, CSX/Maersk are poised to take business from CP and the Port of Montreal.
(Frank Jolin photo)


VAUDREUIL-SOULANGES — Canadian Pacific hasn’t officially killed plans for a 311-hectare intermodal terminal on the St. Lazare/Les Cèdres border, but CEO Hunter Harrison’s comments earlier this month have placed it on life support.

Meanwhile, the opening of Highway 30 between Vaudreuil-Dorion and Chateauguay puts Florida-based CSX in a position to bite off a chunk of CP’s traffic with its Valleyfield intermodal terminal and direct connections to the 20 and the 40.

Construction began this spring on CSX’s $12 million intermodal terminal in Valleyfield’s industrial park, the U.S. carrier’s first Canadian yard. When it opens next year, the terminal is expected to generate 436 jobs and move 47 trucks per hour from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Most of the traffic will consist of containers moving between Montreal and northeastern U.S. ports like Philadelphia.

Media speculation about CP’s Les Cèdres project has run rampant in the wake of Harrison’s comments during a Dec. 4 investor call, but nervous CP spokespeople are confirming nothing. Industry analysts expect CP to divest itself of non-core assets.

The former CN CEO, headhunted from retirement by Pershing Capital head Bill Ackman to make CP profitable, never mentioned the 330-hectare Les Cèdres intermodal terminal. Instead, his comments focussed on plans to consolidate CP’s Montreal operations. CP now operates facilities in Lachine and Cote St. Luc.

“Looks like CP will use St. Luc for its intermodal facility at least for the foreseeable future and sell the former Summerlea Golf Course in Lachine,” said Green Coalition transportation critic Avrom Shtern. Since both CP and CN operate automobile shipment depots near Blue Bonnets, Shtern thinks it would make sense if CP kept that open as well.

“It’s all about cutting costs. It’s their land, they don’t have to buy it or wait for environmental impact studies,” Shtern added.

Officially, neither the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC nor the CLD are closing the book on CP’s Les Cèdres project, the cornerstone of an industrial policy to turn Vaudreuil-Soulanges into an inland port. Talks were continuing last week between the CLD and CP.

However, there’s already some question as to whether CP will be allowed to sit on the 136 hectares of farmland dezoned expressly for the intermodal project. The MRC rezoned the land from farmland to industrial to clear the way for hearings before Quebec’s farmland protection commission. There’s concern that if CP doesn’t proceed, the Union des producteurs agricoles could demand a new hearing to revert the zoning back to agricultural.

Ironically, CP was one of the big lobbyists for Highway 30, since it would allow them to move their intermodal operations off Montreal’s traffic-clogged arteries and close the Lachine terminal, source of complaints from nearby residents. The Lachine IMS serves mainly Chinese and other Asian marine container shipments originating from the Port of Vancouver, domestic containers like those belonging to Canadian Tire and the traffic from U.S. east coast ports. That traffic, plus the CPR roll-on/roll-off conventional truck trailer service now situated at St. Luc yard, was supposed to be transferred to Les Cèdres.

CP favoured the Cèdres location because it already owned 175 hectares of land dating back to WWII. CP was also an intervenor in the hearings where Quebec’s farmland protection commission agreed to dezone the additional 136 hectares for the terminal. CP argued that the advent of Highway 30 would allow them to move truck traffic to and from the proposed inland port.

Even before Ackman seized control of CP, the railway was stalling on its earlier commitment, citing the need for further environmental studies. However that excuse evaporated this past July, when the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act came into force. “As a result, there is no longer a requirement to complete the environmental assessment of this project,” read the Canadian Transportation Agency ruling.

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