Strengthening Railway Safety in Canada
With over 48,000 kilometres of track, Canada has one of the largest railway networks in the world. Keeping it safe is critical. That is why Transport Canada continuously takes measures to further strengthen the safety of Canada’s railway and transportation of dangerous goods (TDG) systems.
Setting safety requirements – Railway safety begins with strong rules, regulations and standards. Transport Canada has developed stronger requirements to:
- Make grade crossings safer;
- Help identify and address safety risks through safety management systems;
- Build stronger tank cars for dangerous goods; and
- Verify railway companies meet basic safety standards and have a railway operating certificate.
Keeping Canadians safe – Transport Canada has increased the number of Railway Safety Inspectors across the country. Transport Canada audits and inspects railway companies to verify they follow the rules, regulations, and standards that apply to them. Every year, we conduct approximately 33,000 audits and inspections of grade crossings, locomotives, freight and passenger cars, tracks, and train crews.
Enforcing railway safety – Transport Canada does not hesitate to take action against anyone or any company that doesn’t follow the new safety rules, which can include administrative monetary penalties (fines). These fines were introduced by the department in 2015 and have been used several times.
Railway Safety Inspectors have a set of enforcement tools to deal with individuals or companies that don’t follow the rules. For example, they can issue a letter of non-compliance requiring a railway company to explain how they will correct a problem. If there is an immediate threat to safety, they will issue a notice and order, requiring the company to take immediate action to address the threat. Finally, prosecution (legal action) can be taken when necessary.
Working with local communities – Transport Canada works with local communities and first responders to ensure they have information they need about dangerous goods being transported in their area. We also fund improvement projects to help local communities make grade crossings safer. Our inspectors work with municipal governments and communities to verify proper use of grade crossing signs, lights, bells, and gates.
Doing your part – With approximately 14,000 public and 9,000 private grade crossings, everyone has a role to play in railway safety. Every year in Canada, approximately 100 people are hurt or killed by trespassing on railway property or through crossing accidents. Please do your part! Obey warning signs and signals, stay off the tracks, be aware of your surroundings, and never try to beat a train through a grade crossing.
For more tips on how to stay safe around trains, tracks, and grade crossings, visit Operation Lifesaver, one of Transport Canada’s railway safety partners.
You can also learn more on this page about: our recent safety actions.
On this page …
- Enhanced regulatory regime
- Railway safety oversight
- Enforcement of railway safety
- Safe transportation of dangerous goods by rail
- Contact us for more information on railway safety
Enhanced regulatory regime
Transport Canada’s Railway Safety Inspectors enforce strict and strong regulations.
We recently introduced:
- Locomotive Emissions Regulations – to reduce air pollutants from locomotives
- Grade Crossings Regulations – to increase safety at federally-regulated grade crossing
- Railway Operating Certificate Regulations – requiring railway companies to obtain and maintain a Railway Operating Certificate to operate on federally-regulated tracks
- Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015 – to increase safety by providing greater clarity on requirements and proactively identifying and addressing safety concerns.
- Railway Safety Administrative Monetary Penalties – to encourage regulatory compliance by issuing fines to individuals or companies that do not comply with the Railway Safety Act, its rules and regulations.
- Amendments to the Transportation Information Regulations – to improve data reporting requirements to better identify and address safety risks before accidents happen.
- The Safe and Accountable Rail Act – to enhance railway safety and make the railway industry and crude oil shippers more accountable to Canadians.
Railway safety oversight
Railway companies are responsible for the safety of their rail line infrastructure, railway equipment and operations. This includes ongoing inspection, testing, and maintenance programs that meet regulatory requirements, as well as any particular operating and environmental conditions.
Under the Railway Safety Act, Transport Canada:
- promotes railway safety through education and awareness;
- oversees the safety of federally-regulated railways;
- develops regulations, rules and engineering standards;
- monitors industry compliance with rules, regulations and standards through audits and inspections; and
- takes enforcement action, as required.
Our Railway Safety Inspectors are responsible for:
- promoting railway safety through education and awareness;
- conducting safety audits and inspections of equipment, operations, track, bridges, crossings, signals, and safety management systems;
- responding to safety threats; and
- taking enforcement action, as required.
Enforcement of railway safety
Under the Railway Safety Act, Transport Canada has many ways deal with non-compliance and threats to safety. You can find out more by reading: Enforcement Action and Measures to Mitigate Threats to Rail Safety.
Safe transportation of dangerous goods by rail
Through new, stricter requirements on transporting dangerous goods by rail, we:
- require railways to secure unattended trains (Canadian Rail Operating Rule 112);
- require a minimum number of crew members for trains with dangerous goods;
- have removed older (DOT-111) tank cars from dangerous goods service and introduced a new, safer tank car standard (TC-117);
- increased track inspections and reduced track speed limits in highly populated areas to a maximum of 40 miles per hour (from 50 mph); and
- require railways to give municipalities and first responders more information about any dangerous goods they carry in their area.
- Transportation of Dangerous Goods – main page
- Rail Safety - FAQs
- Grade Crossings Regulations: what you need to know (PDF Format - 529 Kb)
- Train Control Working Group Final Report
- Overview of the Locomotive Emissions Regulations
Contact us for more information on railway safety
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