The federal government has introduced legislation that is supposed to make Canada’s main railways more accountable to their customers – like grain and mining companies.

    Bill C-52 follows a five year review of rail service in Canada, that was launched after complaints of poor service from CP and CN Rail.

    "The importance of an efficient and reliable rail system, cannot be overstated,” said federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz in the House of Commons. “Last year alone over three-billion dollars in agricultural products were transported by rail in this country."

     The new Act requires the railways to offer a service contract within 30 days to a potential shipper. If negotiations fall through, companies can seek arbitration through the Canadian Transportation Agency. The railways could be fined up to 100,000 dollars if they violate an arbitration agreement.

      Ritz believes it will work. "What this does is make sure that both entities come to the table prepared to act in the best interests of the overall contract,” he said.

    The railways are questioning the need for the new regulations. But organizations like Pulse Canada welcome the government's move to improve accountability in rail service.

    "In our sector we're looking at containers, container shipment lines, stuffing facilities and all of the people involved at the port,” said Gordon Bacon with Pulse Canada, an organization that represents those who produce and process pulse crops like beans and lentils. “You can understand why it's important that we have consistency and reliability.”

To become law the legislation requires approval from the House of Commons and the Senate. Ritz hopes the bill will be enacted in time for the 2013 shipping season