Terms of Reference

Background

The Railway Safety Act, which came into effect in January 1989, was designed to advance rail safety in Canada by giving the Minister of Transport responsibility for rail safety regulation; providing a modern regulatory framework, together with a streamlined regulation development and approval process; and providing railway companies with greater freedom to manage their operations safely and efficiently.

Since then, changes have occurred in the railway industry (e.g. there has been an increase in the number of federally regulated railway companies and CN has been privatized) and exceptional productivity gains have been achieved.

Since 2002, there has also been an increase in railway accidents and main-track train derailments in Canada. In 2005 - 2007, derailments have led to fatalities, serious injuries and significant environmental damage in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec. Concerns have been expressed by private citizens and a number of groups including provincial governments, railway employees, aboriginal and environmental groups with respect to railway safety in Canada. In addition, Transport Canada officials have identified deficiencies with the Act during their day-to-day administration of legislative provisions.

Although Transport Canada has taken significant safety enforcement action across Canada over the past years to address these problems, there is a view that the current regulatory framework does not provide the full set of tools to effectively deal with them. There is also a view that the current framework needs to be modernized and better aligned with safety legislation in place for other modes of transport in Canada.

Accordingly, the government announced the Railway Safety Act Review to further improve railway safety in Canada and promote a safety culture within the railway industry while preserving and strengthening the vital role this industry plays in the Canadian economy.

An Advisory Panel of four part-time members appointed by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities will conduct independent study and analysis, undertake consultations, and prepare a report with findings and recommendations.

The Panel will consult a wide range of stakeholders, including the public, railway companies and their industry associations, railway company employees and their unions, railway customers (e.g. travellers and shippers), provinces and territories, municipalities, aboriginal and environmental groups as well as Transport Canada and other federal government departments and agencies. The Panel will hold meetings across Canada where individuals and groups can present their views and will have a website to accommodate input from the public. To assist those who wish to make a submission, the Panel will prepare a Guidance Document setting out key issues of interest.

Scope of the Panel's Work

The Panel will prepare a report for the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities with findings and recommendations to improve railway safety, including possible amendments to the Railway Safety Act. The report is to be submitted by October 2007.

The Panel will assess the working and overall efficiency of the Railway Safety Act and examine a number of specific issues including:

  • enforcement powers with respect to administrative monetary penalties;
  • baseline safety requirements ensuring that new rail companies are willing and able to meet minimum safety requirements before starting operations in Canada;
  • consistency of rule application given that rules apply to an individual railway company;
  • delegated powers to railway safety inspectors directly, bypassing the Minister entirely;
  • defining engineering requirements based on the phrase “sound engineering principles” which is undefined within the Railway Safety Act; and
  • establishing a complete legislative authority that applies to railways within Canada's constitutional authority.

The review will not address the limited number of security-related provisions that were added to the Railway Safety Act in 1999, as they do not relate to the concerns that have provided the impetus for the review.

Responsibilities of the Review Secretariat

A full-time Secretariat of eight to 10 people will be established within Transport Canada under the direction of an Executive Director. The Secretariat will have key responsibilities in support of the Panel's mandate and in the assessment and implementation of the Panel's recommendations and observations.

1. Project Planning and administration

Under the panel's guidance, the Secretariat will develop and manage the overall project work plan to ensure all timelines are met and products are delivered to complete the Panel's review by October 31, 2007. In addition to providing support to the Panel, the Secretariat will provide the link to Transport Canada, other government departments and agencies, external stakeholders and international organizations. The Secretariat will also coordinate the drafting, publication and submission of the Panel's report.

2. Consultation and Communication

The Secretariat will be responsible for managing the consultation program. A guidance document setting out key issues will be drafted for the Panel's approval and circulation to interested parties. The Secretariat will manage the stakeholder submissions and ensure the Panel members are briefed and prepared for their meetings. The Secretariat will also be responsible for managing communications associated with the Review.

3. Research and Analysis

All stakeholder submissions will be reviewed, summarized and tracked. Policy issues will be analyzed and submitted to the Panel. The Secretariat will develop a Research Plan for the Panel's approval and undertake studies and analysis on key subjects.

Reporting and Timing

The Panel will prepare a report for the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities that includes findings and recommendations on the provisions and operation of the Railway Safety Act and on other issues falling within the scope of these Terms of Reference. The Panel will submit its report by October 31, 2007.

Timelines

January 3 - 31, 2007
Railway Safety Act Review Secretariat established and Panel members appointed

February 1 - March 31, 2007
Prepare Consultation Plan, Guidance Document and Research Plan

April 1 - July 31, 2007
Panel conducts consultations, research and analysis

August 1 - September 30, 2007
Panel deliberations and initial draft report

October 1 - October 31, 2007
Panel develops final report and submits to the Minister