What is interswitching?

Interswitching is the transfer of traffic between two railway companies (railways). One railway takes a shipper’s freight part of the way between origin and destination. It then transfers the freight to a competing railway with which the shipper has made arrangements for the rest of the haul. The transfer takes place at an interchange – where the lines of the two railways connect.

This page explains how we regulate interswitching and set the rates. It includes this year's interswitching rates and gives information on the extended interswitching pilot project in place between September 2023 and March 2025.

How we regulate interswitching

The CTA regulates some interswitching to make sure shippers have fair and reasonable access to service from more than one railway, which can increase competition in the system. In particular, we set rates each year for “30‑kilometre interswitching”. This is interswitching for shippers whose siding or facility at origin or destination is:

  • within 30 kilometres (in a straight line) of an interchange; or
  • “reasonably close” to an interchange, as decided by the CTA.

The CTA makes rules with respect to 30‑kilometre interswitching in the Railway Interswitching Regulations. Some rules include how the different zones are defined and the level of service that is expected for interswitching traffic.

To find regulated interchanges in Canada, see the Canadian National (CN) Interswitching Points list and the Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) Interswitching Locations list.

The CTA also regulates long-haul interswitching (LHI), which is not limited to 30 kilometres, although other conditions apply. For details, see our LHI page. Information there includes our complete guide to LHI (including how we set LHI rates).

Extended Interswitching Pilot

If you are a shipper in the Prairies, you may be eligible for extended interswitching. A new interswitching zone was established in 2023 as part of an 18‑month pilot project. This extended interswitching zone applies to movements within 160 kilometres of a CN or CPKC interchange in Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba, but outside the existing 30‑kilometre radius.

Interswitching rates

The 30‑kilometre distance around the interchange is divided into four zones. Zone 1 is closest to the interchange and Zone 4, the farthest. The extended interswitching zone in place until March 2025 is called Zone 5.

Each zone has its own rates: one for single cars, and one for blocks of cars. Shippers pay the single rate for shipping from one to 59 cars, and the block rate when shipping 60 cars or more.

Each year, the CTA sets the rates in each zone. We base the rates on a weighted average of what it costs the railways to provide interswitching services. The costs are based on information gathered from the railway companies through site visits and electronic data. The information collected includes items such as:

  • how long it takes railway crews to interswitch single cars and blocks of cars;
  • railway crew wages during that time; and
  • how much fuel the railway uses during that time (which depends on distance from the interchange).

This year's rates

The current interswitching rates are listed below. Please note that in Zone 4, there is an extra charge if the shipper's siding/facility is more than 40 kilometres by track from the interchange. In Zone 5, there is also an extra charge if the siding/facility is more than 40 kilometres by track from the interchange.

Zone Single rate (per car) Block rate (per car)
1 $425 $75
2 $545 $115
3 $640 $110
4a $580 $150
4b $580 + $7.36 for each km above 40 $150 + $2.05 for each km above 40
5 $848 + $4.61 for each km above 40 $325 + $1.60 for each km above 40

Disputes about interswitching

Shippers and others who have a dispute with a railway over interswitching can come to us for help. This could include disputes about whether the right rate was charged, whether a siding/facility is within 30 kilometres of, or reasonably close to, an interchange, or whether an interchange exists. We offer several services for resolving disputes.

Dispute resolution services

You could use a quick and relatively informal process to resolve your dispute:

Or you could use a more formal process:

See the overview and FAQs to compare the dispute resolution options. If you’re not sure which option to choose, contact us to see how we can help.

For more information about Interswitching, see the Canada Transportation Act (sections 127 and 128) and the Railway Interswitching Regulations.
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