Increased investment in railway networks. Improved rail safety and security. Strategic partnerships to share track and expand reach, and industry-wide efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Canada's rail transportation industry is moving full steam ahead in support of the country's economic growth.
8.1 Overview of Rail Transportation
With more than 46,000 kilometres of tracks (see Addendum Table RA1), the rail transport industry is an important element of Canada's transportation system. In Canada, the rail transport industry generates approximately $10 billion per year—95% of which comes from rail freight operations and approximately 5% from commuter, intercity and tourist passenger rail services in major urban centres, corridors and regions.
The North American rail industry is highly integrated. Companies operating on integrated rail networks build track to a standard gauge, and tracks are maintained to similar standards. Loaded rail cars are usually pulled by locomotives owned and operated by the track owner, but North American integration allows railways to interchange or hand off cars and locomotives that meet industry standards to other railways to complete a journey.
Canadian National Railway (CN) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) are the two dominant freight rail operators in Canada and are both Class I railways, meaning their revenues exceeded $250 million in the past two years. Of total Canadian rail transport industry revenues, CN accounts for over 50% and CPR for approximately 35%. Together, CN and CPR represent more than 95% of Canada's annual rail tonne-kilometres, more than 75% of the industry's tracks, and three-quarters of overall tonnage carried by the rail sector. For Canada, these two firms serve as important supply chain links for Canada's key trade corridors and gateways. CN crosses Canada from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and follows the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, linking customers in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. This has been made possible through various CN acquisitions—Illinois Central in 1999; Wisconsin Central in 2001; and Great Lakes Transportation in 2004—as well as a 2004 partnership agreement with BC Rail. CN generates annual freight revenues in Canada on the order of $5.5 billion, and employs 22,000 people here and abroad. Meanwhile, CPR operates 22,500 route-kilometres in six provinces and 13 States, generates almost $4 billion in annual revenues in Canada; it has roughly 15,000 employees system-wide.
Shortline railways are a fundamental component of the country's rail network, feeding and delivering traffic to and from mainline railways, originating more than 20% of all CN and CPR's freight carload traffic, and moving billions of tonne-kilometres back and forth from Class I railways.
Passenger railways include intercity rail operators, urban rail transit railways and heritage railways. In 2009, intercity passenger rail traffic totalled 4.5 million passengers and approximately 1.4 billion passenger-kilometres. VIA Rail Canada—a Crown corporation established in 1977 that now operates close to 500 trains weekly serving more than 450 communities across 12,500 kilometres of rail network—is Canada's dominant intercity rail passenger service operator, with annual passenger revenues of $260 to $280 million. It is also a Class I railway. This is complemented by about $260 million in annual operating subsidies as well as substantial capital funding. Remote communities benefit from subsidized intercity passenger rail services provided by carriers such as Tshiuetin Rail Transportation Inc. between Sept-Iles and Schefferville, while cross-border passenger rail service connections are made possible in Vancouver through Amtrak's Cascades service, in Niagara Falls through Amtrak's Empire service, and in Montreal through Amtrak's Adirondack service.
A number of tourism rail services are offered throughout the country and include Rocky Mountaineer, Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions, Great Canadian Railtour Company Ltd., South Simcoe Railway, and Steam Train HCW. Commuter rail service is provided by TransLink in Metro Vancouver, GO Transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and Agence métropolitaine de transport (Metropolitan Transportation Agency) in the Greater Montreal area.
8.2 2011 Year in Review
Economic Framework and infrastructure
- In 2011, Canadian railways carried more than 313 million tonnes of freight, up 14.9% from 2010 (see Table RA9).
- Some 36 shortline and regional railways operate in Canada. In 2010 they accounted for 22.2% of total kilometres of track (see Table RA1) and $655 million in revenues (see Table RA4).
- In 2011, the railway industry in Canada alone employed 32,006 people, up 1% from the previous year (see Table RA5). Average employee annual comnpensation was $76,554, up 2.8% from 2010.
- Labour agreements were reached in 2011 between Canadian National (CN) and the Canadian Auto Workers' (CAW) union, the United Steelworkers, and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC). In total, these recent agreements now cover approximately 8,575 CN employees. Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) also reached labour agreements with CAW that cover its mechanical services employees, and VIA Rail reached a labour agreement with TCRC that covers its locomotive engineers. Table EC54 shows that in 2011, only one work stoppages occurred in the rail industry and it impacted 109 workers.
- In March 2011, Metrolinx purchased a section of CN's Kingston Subdivision in eastern Toronto for $299 million. The rail line encompasses the two- and three-track rail corridor east of Union Station to a junction near Whites Road in Pickering, Ontario, where the line then connects with GO Transit's separate rail right-of-way. With this purchase, Metrolinx now owns 61% of the rail corridors within which GO Transit operates.
- System-wide, CN earned $9.0 billion in operating revenues in 2011. This represents an 8.8% increase over 2010 revenues of $8.3 billion. Operating expenses increased 8.7%, from 5.3 billion in 2010 to 5.7 billion in 2011. Fuel represented the largest increase in operating expenses, rising 34.7%, from $1.0 billion in 2010 to $1.4 billion. Expenses in labour and fringe benefits increased 3.9%, from $1.7 billion 2010 to $1.8 billion in 2011. Tables EC71 and RA4 provides combined financial results for the Canadian portion of CN and CPR's operations.
- CN made several infrastructure investments in 2011, including the construction of a new logistics park in Calgary, $35 million to improve infrastructure and facility capacity in Alberta, and improvements to its Brampton Intermodal Terminal. These investments by CN are part of a larger $1.7 billion in capital spending in 2011, which included $1 billion for track investment, $500 million on facilities, such as distribution centres and information technology, and $200 million on fleet improvements, including new fuel-efficient locomotives and new freight cars.
- System-wide, CPR earned $5.0 billion in revenues in 2011, representing a 4.1% increase over the $4.9 billion earned in 2010. Operating expenses increased 8.9%, from $3.9 billion in 2010 to 4.2 billion in 2011. Fuel and materials represented the largest increase in operating expenses, rising by 33.0 and 13.6%, respectively.
- CPR announced plans to expand its crude oil transload facility at Estevan, Saskatchewan, serving the Bekken Formation in Saskatchewan, to better handle the expected 70,000 annual carloads in the future. Also, as part of its three-year program to improve 1,400 kilometres of its North Main Line between Winnipeg and Edmonton, CPR enhanced 250 kilometres of track. These investments by CPR are part of a larger billion-dollar capital investment plan for 2011, which included $680 million for track infrastructure, $200 million for volume growth, productivity initiatives and network enhancements, $80 million to upgrade its information technology systems and $40 million principally in train control and other regulated capital.
- In December 2011, CPR announced its intent to further develop its long-train strategy, which aims to increase intercontinental train length by 11% by 2013. CPR's intermodal trains have grown in length to 12,000 feet—an increase of 40% since 2008.
- In 2010, VIA Rail Canada reported revenues of $274.4 million and a loss of $261.5 million. The federal government provided $261.5 million in operating funding and $268.6 in capital funding.
- In 2010, VIA Rail Canada, experienced a 1.3% decrease in passenger-miles (see Table RA30), while increases in the average fare resulted in a 3.2% increase in passenger revenues.
- VIA Rail completed $300-million infrastructure upgrades in its Montreal–Ottawa–Toronto corridor, and opened a new $750,000 station in Smiths Falls, Ontario.
- VIA Rail also announced a series of new marketing-oriented initiatives and service agreements to improve customer service and productivity. These include new partnerships with GO Transit in Toronto and bus services in western Canada to integrate travel connections, improvements to on-board customer Internet access through Wi-Fi, and the use of new social media forums such as Twitter and Facebook.
- There were 13 commuter rail lines operating in Canada and serving the Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver metropolitan areas. In 2010, they carried 64.3 million passengers (see Table RA31).
- In 2010, railways consumed 1.9 billion litres of fuel, up 9.2% from the previous year (see Table RA6). This increase was driven by a 13.8% increase in tonne-kilometres carried as the economy was recovering from the previous year's recession.
- In 2011, CN and CPR announced plans to improve their locomotive fleet fuel efficiencies and lower emissions by purchasing new locomotives and rebuilding some of their existing fleets.
- In February 2011, Transport Canada completed preliminary consultations on the development of locomotive air pollutant emission regulations. Six consultation meetings were held in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver and Detroit.
- In 20081, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the rail sector were 7.1 Mt CO2e. Rail emissions accounted for 4% of domestic GHG emissions from transportation, and less than 1% of total Canadian emissions2 (see Table EN4).
- In 2009, rail accounted for only 9% of all transportation-related NOx emissions and 6% of PM2.5 emissions, but contributed about 2% of other transportation-related air pollutants3 (see Table EN6).
- Under the framework of the Regulatory Cooperation Council, a joint Canada-U.S. action plan was announced in December 2011 to align regulatory approaches between the two countries. The action plan involves 29 initiatives, including a commitment to work together to reduce GHG emissions from locomotives.
- A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on coordination of efforts related to noise and vibration complaints and road, utility or private crossings was signed with the Canadian Transport Agency in September 2011. The purpose of this MOU is to set out the responsibilities and understandings between the participants with respect to railway noise and vibration complaints and opening and closing of road, utility and private crossings.
- In 2011, 1,023 railway accidents took place in Canada (see Tables S1 to S5) causing 71 fatalities. Both of these figures are significantly lower than those reported in 2010 (1075 accidents and 81 fatalities).
- Bill S-4, the Safer Railways Act, was introduced in the Senate on October 6, 2011. The Bill received Senate approval with one minor amendment on December 7, 2011.
- In keeping with the Rail Safety Strategic Plan 2010–2015, Transport Canada launched the first phase of its national data collection system in 2011 and made significant progress on its implementation of risk-based planning and quality management procedures. Transport Canada also expanded its training program for regional safety inspectors.
- Transport Canada invested nearly $14 million under the Grade Crossing Improvement Program (see Table G3) to make safety improvements at 810 railway crossings across the country.
- CPR and Parks Canada hosted a symposium to reduce railway and bear conflicts in Jasper National Park. CPR will invest up to a million dollars in research aimed to reduce these collisions. Both organizations have already collaborated on a number of initiatives, including on-track structures such as peg boards that discourage bears from using the tracks as an escape path, strategic vegetation management and supporting fencing structures with electro-mats.
- Transport Canada continued efforts to enhance the security of rail and urban transit systems through collaborative efforts with industry and the development of additional Codes of Practice.
- Prime Minister Harper and President Obama announced a Beyond the Border Declaration in 2011, which included action items that will help enhance the efficiency and security of Canada's supply chains—including Canada's rail corridors.
8.3 2007–11 Recap
Economic Framework and infrastructure
Freight railway performance
Canadian freight railway performance, in terms of volume, reflected the trends in the overall economy between 2007 and 2011. Canadian railways carried a total of 353.3 million tonnes of freight in 2007, which was a slight decrease from 357.4 million tonnes in 2006. In mid-2008, at the onset of the financial downturn, total tonnage carried by Canadian railways decreased to 336.64 million tonnes. By 2009, the total had decreased to 278.9 million tonnes of freight—a decline of nearly 57.8 million tonnes from the already depressed level of 2008. This decline of 17.2% per cent took annual freight carriage to its lowest point since 1998. As the economy began to show signs of recovery in 2010, total tonnage carried by Canadian railways rose again to 313.5 million tonnes of freight in 2011 (see Table RA9).
Between 2007 and 2011, CN saw its revenues increase by 14.3% (or 3.6% on average annually), going from $7.9 billion to $9 billion. Net income followed suit, with an average increase of 3.5% per year during that period. Meanwhile, at CPR, revenues increased by 7.3% during that period, going from $4.7 billion to $5.2 billion. However, net income actually declined during the period, dropping from $946.2 million to $570 million.
Despite the varying volumes and fluctuations in revenues since 2007, Canadian railways have consistently increased investment in their networks. Collectively, railways increased their $2.1-billion capital investment in 2009 to $2.3 billion in 2010—an increase of 9.5%. In 2011, Canadian railways increased their collective investment to $2.7 billion, a 17.4% increase from 2010. This consistent capital investment is intended to improve the overall efficiency, reliability and fluidity of the rail network.
Canada's transportation policy outlined in the Canada Transportation Act emphasizes a strong reliance on competition and market forces. The Act also contains a number of shipper protection provisions that were strengthened through amendments in Bill C-8, which received Royal Assent on February 28, 2008.
Following these amendments to the Act, in 2008 the federal government announced the terms of reference for the Rail Freight Service Review that set out the following objectives:
- conduct a review of the rail-based logistics chain;
- identify problems and issues with railway service; and
- make recommendations on how to address these problems and issues, including commercial and, if necessary, regulatory solutions.
The federal government received the review's Final Report in December 2010, and has begun implementing its response, as announced on March 18, 2011. More information on the Rail Freight Service Review is available in section 8.4
The passenger rail picture
In passenger rail, VIA Rail Canada operated essentially the same network of services over the 2007–2011 period, but did temporarily suspend its Victoria-Courtenay service in March 2011 due to poor track conditions. In 2011, VIA increased its number of Montreal–Toronto trains by combining three westbound and two eastbound Montreal–Ottawa and Ottawa–Toronto trains to operate through Ottawa.
VIA's revenues reflected trends in the overall economy. Revenues increased between 2007 and 2008, rising from $285.6 million to $299.2 million, and then fell in 2009 to $264.9 million due to reduced demand associated with the global financial crisis. Revenues began to rise in 2010 as the economy recovered, increasing to $274.4 million. Operating costs grew because of rising fuel prices and compensation increases driven by the need to resume pension contributions. Over the 2007–2010 period, costs rose from $486.2 million in 2007 to $513.4 million in 2008, $526.1 million in 2009 and $535.9 million in 2010. Please see Tables RA4 and EC71 for more details.
Capital investment rose considerably. In October 2007, the federal government approved a program to inject $691 million into VIA, of which $516 million was earmarked for capital improvements. Capital expenditures in 2007 totalled $12.4 million. In 2009, as part of the Economic Action Plan implemented by the Government of Canada to stimulate the economy, VIA received an additional $407 million in capital. In 2011, capital expenditures totalled $208 million. Most investments were concentrated on the Quebec-Windsor Corridor, which accounts for 75% of VIA's revenues and 91% of its ridership. The greatest portion was directed towards equipment, stations and infrastructure in that corridor, with the goal of improving service by reducing trip times and increasing frequencies.
Freight rail GHG emissions increased from 6.6 Mt to 6.9 Mt between 1990 and 2008, equivalent to 4%, for a yearly average increase of 0.2% per year. Due to locomotive efficiency improvements, total GHG emissions remained fairly stable while total tonne-kilometres travelled grew significantly. Freight rail GHG emissions are forecast to increase by 15% (0.9% annually), from 6.0 Mt to 6.9 Mt from 2005 to 20204 (see Figure EN12), as a result of increased rail traffic. The GHG emission intensity of freight and passenger rail improved significantly from 1990 to 2008, by 24% and 26% respectively (see Figure EN13).
Freight-related Rail GHG Emissions
From 1990–2009, rail particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions increased by approximately 1,000 tonnes, while SOx emissions fell by almost 3,000 tonnes, NOx emissions decreased by 14,722 tonnes, VOC emissions increased by approximately 600 tonnes and CO emissions fell by 5,582 tonnes (see Figure EN14).
In a 2006 Notice of Intent, the Government of Canada announced its intent to develop locomotive air emissions regulations. Locomotive emissions regulations are being developed by Transport Canada under the Railway Safety Act in two phases, recognizing the high degree of integration of the North American railway industry:
- regulations aligned with those in the U.S. are being developed to limit the release of air pollutant emissions from the rail sector; and
- regulations to limit the release of GHG emissions will be developed within a North American context.
In May 2007, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to reduce railway air emissions was signed between Transport Canada, Environment Canada and the Railway Association of Canada. The MOU covered the period from 2006 to 2010 and identified commitments of Canadian railway companies to reduce GHG and criteria air contaminants (CAC) emissions on a voluntary basis. These measures were agreed upon as an interim step to a regulatory regime. As part of the MOU, an annual Locomotive Emission Monitoring report is produced by the Railway Association of Canada.
A four-member panel appointed in 2007 by the Minister of Transport to conduct a comprehensive review of the Railway Safety Act (RSA) published its final report entitled Stronger Ties: A Shared Commitment to Railway Safety. The report was preceded by a year of national consultations, and presented 56 recommendations to improve rail safety. It was tabled in the House of Commons in March 2008.
During the same period, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities launched a national study on railway safety in Canada. The Committee accepted the findings of the RSA review report and tabled its own report in the House of Commons in May 2008 with 14 additional recommendations to improve rail safety. Work is underway with stakeholders to implement the two reports' recommendations; some will require legislative changes.
Since the launch of the review, Canada's three Class I railways have made significant progress in upgrading their safety systems and safety performance. CN, CPR and VIA Rail have all increased their levels of consultation and communication with the regulator, enhanced their focus on safety management systems, launched a variety of new safety initiatives related to operations and infrastructure, and are working towards the development of a strong safety culture at all levels of their organizations. These endeavours have paid off. Since 2007, train accidents have decreased by 23% and passenger train accidents have decreased by 19%.
Since 2007, Transport Canada's number of railway safety inspectors has increased and inspector training has grown. Risk-based planning and quality management procedures have been implemented, capacity for data management and analysis improved, consultation and communication initiatives with industry expanded, and research and development of new safety technologies sponsored. As well, Transport Canada continued its efforts to harmonize regulatory requirements with the U.S., and furthered the implementation of safety management systems in the rail industry. A suite of safety management system guides for large and small railways was published, which aimed to enhance safety culture in the rail industry.
Transport Canada continued to collaborate with the railway industry and encourage the adoption of appropriate security measures designed to enhance the security of Canada's transportation systems. In 2007, Transport Canada revised an existing, 10-year-old MOU with the Railway Association of Canada (RAC) established to enhance security of the railways represented by RAC. The MOU outlined specific requirements for railway security that both parties were expected to abide by.
Since 2007, Transport Canada has also been developing voluntary security standards, or Codes of Practice (CoPs), through the Steering Committee for Rail and Urban Transit Security Standards Development formed that year. The Committee includes Transport Canada, major rail and transit operators, RAC and the Canadian Urban Transit Association. To date, four Codes of Practice have been completed:
- Developing and Maintaining Security Plans for Rail and Transit Operations
- Conducting Security Risk Assessments of Rail and Transit Operations
- Conducting Security Exercises for Rail and Transit Operations
- Employee Training and Awareness for Rail and Urban Transit Security
The CoPs serve as useful tools to enhance the security of rail and urban transit in Canada; operators have adopted the CoPs on a voluntary basis. Transport Canada intends to continue developing and promoting CoPs to enhance the security of transit, rail and intercity buses in Canada.
Under the Railway Safety Act, the Minister of Transport is granted a number of powers to enhance the security of Canadian rail operations. Several of these provisions have been used successfully to enhance the security of special events. In January 2010, Transport Canada enhanced railway security for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games by establishing security rules for federally regulated railway companies operating in the Olympic region. These rules, developed in close consultation with the affected railway companies, included requirements to implement security controls related to access, physical security, monitoring, communications and coordination, response to security incidents, employee training, and public awareness. In June 2010, Transport Canada enhanced railway security for the G8 and G20 Summits by establishing security measures for federally regulated railway companies operating in Huntsville, Ontario and Toronto, Ontario.
8.4 Economic Framework and Infrastructure
Class I freight railways
In 2011, Canada's two Class I freight railways—CN and CPR—collectively spent more than $2.7 billion on capital programs for track and roadway, buildings, rolling stock and information systems. CN invested approximately $1.7 billion in track improvements, rolling stock and better facilities. Meanwhile, CPR announced approximately $1 billion in capital investment for 2011 to increase capacity and enhance network redundancy. These investments aim to improve rail service by enabling CPR to carry additional traffic more reliably and by ensuring a more resilient network when faced with severe weather disruptions. The proposed investment includes the purchase of 91 new locomotives and the hiring of 1,800 new employees.
Both railways continue to develop longer trains to enhance network velocity and productivity while reducing labour costs and increasing fuel efficiency. This strategy has required significant capital investment in locomotive upgrades and siding extensions to ensure sufficient capacity within the rail network. As a result of the railways' continued investment, the average number of cars per train has increased from 73 in 2001 to 92 in 2010.
The 14% increase in volume from 2009 to 2010 can be attributed to intermodal traffic that increased by 3.75 million tonnes, representing an increase of nearly 11.6%. Tables RA28 and RA29 provide more detail on intermodal rail volumes. Bulk commodities also increased significantly, including a 38.2% increase in coal and a 6.1% increase in forest products. This was offset by 4.3% decline in grain volumes. Tables RA17 to RA20 provide more information on commodities transported by rail.
In 2010, Class I railway revenues accounted for 93.8% of total revenues in the railway sector. The largest increases in rail sector revenues in 2010 were mainly the result of significant gains in bulk goods (+8.7%) and intermodal transportation (+6%). In 2010, CN and CPR collectively employed approximately 29,193 people (see Table RA5).
Since 2010, CN and CPR have signed agreements with shippers and other stakeholders designed to establish, measure and improve various performance and service measures. CPR signed agreements with the Montreal Port Authority, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (Port of Metro Vancouver), Teck Coal Ltd., DP World Vancouver, TSI Terminals5, CSX and Delaware & Hudson Railway. CN signed agreements with the Halifax Port Authority, the Montreal Port Authority, the Port of Metro Vancouver, Prince Rupert Port Authority, the Port of Quebec, TSI Terminals, Viterra, Maher Terminals (Prince Rupert), Ridley Terminals (Prince Rupert), Coalspur, Agri-food Central, Raymont Logistics, Squamish Terminals and Western Coal Corporation.
Shortline freight railways
A total of 37 shortline railways operated in Canada in 2011. In 2010, shortline railways accounted for 10,169 kilometres of track, representing approximately 22.2% of total track kilometres in Canada. Big Sky Rail opened on September 22, 2011 in Saskatchewan; the shortline railway operates in the southwest of the province on 354 km of track purchased from CN. These shortline operations will contribute to moving grain from southwestern Saskatchewan for export. Big Sky Rail is a partnership that includes Mobil Grain Ltd.—which has been hauling grain cars with locomotives on the shortline track since September 6, 2011—and West Central Road & Rail, which has five grain-loading facilities along the shortline. Both have an equity position in Big Sky.
In 2010, shortline railways carried a total of 73.9 million tonnes of freight. This is an increase of nearly 11.5 million tonnes from 62.5 in 2009—or 18.3%. During the 2002–2010 period, shortline railway revenues decreased by 3.7% per year, on average. Shortline railway revenues accounted for 6.2% of total revenues in the railway sector in 2010. In that same year, shortline railways employed approximately 2,813 people.
Rail Freight Service Review
The Rail Freight Service Review was launched in 2008 to identify ways to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of Canada's rail-based logistics system. The review used quantitative analysis to reach a better understanding of the nature and extent of problems within the logistics chain, as well as a three-person panel that consulted extensively and received written submissions from stakeholders across the system. The panel submitted its final report to the Minister of State (Transport) in December 2010.
On March 18, 2011 the federal government announced its response to the Rail Freight Service Review, indicating its acceptance of the Panel's commercial approach and its intention to implement a number of measures to improve the performance of the entire rail supply chain. On October 31, the government announced the appointment of an independent facilitator, Mr. Jim Dinning, to lead a six-month facilitation process for developing a template for a service agreement and streamlined commercial dispute resolution process between railways and stakeholders. In support of these commercial measures, the federal government also intends to table a bill that will give shippers the right to a service agreement with the railways, and to provide a process for establishing agreements when commercial negotiations fail.
VIA Rail Canada
VIA operates a national network of services in eight contiguous provinces. Its services fall into three categories: Quebec–Windsor Corridor, Transcontinental, and Regional and Remote. The Quebec–Windsor Corridor is a major focus: multiple daily trips are offered between all Corridor cities. Two transcontinental trains operate six round trips per week between Montreal and Halifax, and three round trips per week between Toronto and Vancouver via Winnipeg and Edmonton. The transcontinental trains account for 22% of VIA's revenues and 6% of its ridership.
Seven regional and remote services are operated Canada. Two regional routes serve Matapedia–Gaspe and Victoria–Courtenay, while remote services run from Montreal–Jonquiere, Montreal–Senneterre, Sudbury–White River, Winnipeg–Churchill, and Jasper–Prince Rupert. These seven services account for 2% of VIA's revenues and 3% of its passengers.
In 2011, VIA operated up to 497 trains weekly on 12,500 kilometres of track. Most of this network (83%) is owned by Canada's major freight railways (CN: 79%, and CPR: 4%). Shortlines own approximately 15%, and VIA owns the remaining 2%. VIA has Train Service Agreements with the major and shortline freight railways that define VIA's access to rail infrastructure. Shortline infrastructure is maintained to reflect the freight market along the rail line, which does not demand the same level of track quality as passenger rail service. As a result, VIA's services on these routes operate at slower speeds, thus impacting its on-time performance over which it does not have full control.
Two VIA Rail stations—Montreal Central Station and Quebec Station—allow for level-entry boarding for persons using mobility aids. VIA Rail uses wheelchair lifts at 48 different locations across Canada. As part of its Capital Investment Program, VIA is upgrading and modernizing more than 50 of its passenger stations across Canada. For example, at the Belleville, Oshawa and Cobourg stations, an overhead footbridge has been constructed with an elevator on either side of the tracks to facilitate access.
As part of a program to modernize rail passenger services, VIA is currently undertaking a major overhaul of its fleet of rail cars, which includes extensive changes to improve accessibility. Improvements are being made to Renaissance cars to address the 14 mobility obstacles identified by the Canadian Transportation Agency under the Passenger Rail Car Accessibility Code of Practice. The work being carried out by VIA includes modifications to washrooms, the coach seating area and sleeping car rooms to better accommodate passengers who are mobility impaired.
VIA Rail's Accessibility Policy
VIA Rail Canada offers a free fare to the attendant of a person with a disability who requires assistance with meeting his/her personal needs. In order for a working guide dog or certified service animal to have adequate space, VIA Rail also provides the passenger with a second seat free of charge. If the size of a seat is not adequate for a passenger's size, or if a passenger has a disability for which one seat is not sufficiently comfortable, VIA will offer two side-by-side seats with the second seat at a reduced price. More information on VIA's policies on accessibility is available at http://www.viarail.ca/en/useful-info/special-needs/reduced-mobility
VIA is incorporating the accessible coach bathroom design from its Renaissance Cars into the Light Rapid and Comfortable (LRC) and Rail Diesel Car (RDC) fleets, which will greatly enhance their accessibility. VIA is also rebuilding some of the sleeping cars used on the western transcontinental train. As part of this project, provision is made to have one accessible sleeping car room on the train, which is currently not wheelchair accessible. Other accessibility features of the overhauled LRC and RDC cars include the provision of a number of seats with fold-up armrests and enhanced space for service animals.
High speed rail
A feasibility study for a high speed rail service (HSR) in the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor was conducted on behalf of Transport Canada, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario and the Ministry of Transportation of Quebec by EcoTrain, a group of international consulting firms led by Dessau and comprising Deutsche Bahn International, KPMG, MMM Group, and Wilbur Smith Associates6. The joint study included an assessment of high-speed train technologies, potential routings, traffic forecasts, and financial and economic (cost-benefit) analyses. The study also evaluated socioeconomic, environmental and transportation system impacts of two HSR technologies based on speeds of 200 kilometres per hour (km/h) using diesel traction and 300 km/h using electric traction. It further identified potential routes to accommodate each of the 200 and 300 km/h technologies including stations at Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Montreal, Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, London and Windsor.
The financial analysis considered a government financing case (wholly public) and a partly private sector-funded case (private sector). The total development costs in 2009 dollars for the full Quebec City–Windsor Corridor are estimated to be between $18.9 billion for the 200 km/h technology and $21.3 billion for the 300 km/h technology. Developing the section between Montreal–Ottawa–Toronto could cost between $9.1 for 200 km/h and $11 billion for 300 km/h. The main findings from the financial analysis for both the public and private sector cases for the full Quebec City–Windsor Corridor indicate that while the project could cover all operating costs, governments would need to contribute significantly to the project development cost and receive no financial return on investment.
Commuter rail provides service between outlying municipalities and a downtown rail station, and typically focuses on capturing work trips. In this respect, commuter rail differs from other forms of urban transit, which typically promotes mobility throughout an urban area with more diverse origins and destinations. Given that the origins of most commuters using such systems are inter-urban, commuter rail in Canada's larger cities is operated by provincially created transportation agencies.
Examples of such provincial agencies include the Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT, or Metropolitan Transportation Agency) in the Montreal area, the GO Transit division of Metrolinx in Ontario, and Translink in British Columbia, which operates the West Coast Express.
In Montreal, the provincial government is financing the construction of the Train de l'Est (Eastern train) to connect downtown Montreal to Mascouche on the North Shore of the St. Lawrence. The project was initially budgeted for $300 million, an amount that has since been revised upwards. The province also provided $159 million of the $236 million necessary to buy 10 new Bombardier bi-modal (diesel/electric) locomotives to be used for commuter trains using the Mount-Royal tunnel.
In the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, the Government of Ontario plans to invest over $11.7 billion in its MoveOntario 2020 project, which includes the Big Move regional transportation plan for the region. This plan calls for the construction of 902 kilometres of new or improved rapid transit. While not completely dedicated to commuter rail, Big Move has drafted initial plans that include important capacity expansion, three rail extensions and up to five new rail lines. Finally, the governments of Canada and Ontario each contributed $150,000 for a preliminary engineering study to revive commuter train service between Peterborough and Toronto's Union Station, 120 kilometres away.
At the federal level, as part of its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, ease urban congestion and promote mobility options for Canadians, the Government of Canada has made significant investments in commuter rail, in partnership with provincial governments. In the Greater Toronto Area, the federal government has committed $250 million since 2008 to expand and upgrade commuter rail facilities in the region, including corridor upgrades and track construction for GO Transit as well as increased park-and-ride facilities at stations. The federal government has also provided $146 million in funding for the revitalization of Union Station, the busiest commuter hub in Canada, to increase passenger flow and station capacity. In Montréal, P3 Canada has partnered with the AMT and the Government of Quebec to construct a train maintenance facility for commuter trains. P3 Canada will provide $25 million in funding for the project. In Vancouver, the federal government provided over $9 million in funding through the Building Canada Fund for the West Coast Express commuter service. Funding was used to purchase seven new rail cars, lengthen station platforms and install security cameras.
Air-rail links are rail lines that connect major airports to a downtown rail station or hub in order to improve accessibility to airports and improve intermodal connections. These links may take the form of either a dedicated rail line or an extension of an existing urban rail transit system to service an airport. Because air-rail links contribute to the overall efficiency of the transportation system, reduce congestion and improve intermodal connections, the federal and provincial governments have committed significant funding to various air-rail links.
In Vancouver, the federal government provided $450 million, British Columbia provided $435 million, Translink (the provincial agency responsible for transit in the Lower Mainland) provided $334 million, the Vancouver Airport Authority provided $300 million, and the City of Vancouver provided $29 million to build the Canada Line, a 19.2-kilometre urban transit rail link between Richmond, the Vancouver International Airport and Waterfront Station in Downtown Vancouver. The project was delivered through a public-private partnership with SNC-Lavalin and has been in operation since 2009. It has already exceeded ridership projections, with over 110,000 riders a day in 2011.
In Toronto, the Union Station–Pearson Airport link will provide a fast, efficient connection between the busiest passenger rail and air hubs in the country. Construction on this project is expected to begin in the spring of 2012 and be completed in time for the 2015 Pan American Games. The project is expected to cost between $300 to 400 million, including $128 million to build the rail spur to the airport. The federal government, through the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund, will provide $68.7 million to upgrade the Georgetown rail corridor, which will be used by both the air-rail link and GO Transit commuter trains. The province of Ontario, through Metrolinx, is funding the balance.
In Montreal, the airport authority, Aéroports de Montréal (ADM), has proposed the construction of a rail shuttle service between downtown Montreal and Montreal-Trudeau Airport to speed-up the journey to and from downtown. Under current circumstances, adding trains on the western part of the island is a challenge, as tracks between downtown and Dorval are already operating at capacity. ADM aims to increase rail capacity by adding new tracks for a rail shuttle—the Aerotrain. All three levels of government and ADM are currently studying the project.
Tourist trains are a growing sector of passenger rail and generally operate in the spring, summer and fall months. Most trips are one to two hours, although some can encompass one or two days.
The oldest tourist train operation in Canada is the Algoma Central Railway, now a subsidiary of Canadian National, which began promoting same-day return trips from Sault Ste Marie to Canyon, Ontario in the 1960s. The train was completely re-equipped with rebuilt passenger cars and locomotives in 2011.
The Ontario Northland Railway began to operate its Polar Bear Express tourist train between Cochrane and Moosonee, Ontario in the 1960s. More recently, the railway introduced a fall foliage excursion between North Bay and Temagami. The Ontario government announced a $10-million refurbishment program, to be carried out in 2012.
In southern Ontario, the South Simcoe Railway operates steam train excursions out of Tottenham, while the York-Durham Railway operates diesel trips between Uxbridge and Stouffville. Also in this area, Waterloo Central operates steam train excursions from Waterloo, and Port Stanley Terminal Rail operates diesel trips out of Port Stanley.
In Quebec, the Orford Express provides gourmet dinner train service out of Sherbrooke. A new service, the Train Le Massif of Charlevoix, began service from Quebec City to the Charlevoix region in 2011. The train is scheduled to operate various itineraries year-round—a first for this sector.
Rocky Mountaineer Railtours operates two-day excursions from Vancouver to Jasper and Banff. The Canadian Pacific Railway operates the Royal Canadian Pacific, providing steam and diesel excursions on multiple day trips in Alberta and British Columbia.
Steam train excursions are operated in western Canada by Prairie Dog Central Railway from Winnipeg, Alberta Prairie Railway from Stettler, Kettle Valley Steam Railway from Summerland, Kamloops Heritage Railway from Kamloops, and Alberni Pacific Railway from Port Alberni. The Omega Heritage Railway Association will begin excursions out of Omega, Saskatchewan in 2012.
The White Pass & Yukon Railway, which carries more than 300,000 passengers from Skagway, Alaska into the Yukon through the historic White Pass, is the busiest tourist railway and the only international tourist train in North America. The company has constructed new passenger cars and rebuilt its locomotive fleet to handle this market.
Regulating locomotive emissions
Almost all locomotives used by North American railway companies are built to meet U.S. emissions standards. The principal locomotive air pollutant emissions are NOx, PM, SOx, VOC and CO. The main GHGs linked to locomotive emissions are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
Jurisdiction of Environment and Rail Transportation
The framework of environment-related legislation governing the railway industry is shared among federal authorities—mainly Transport Canada and Environment Canada—and with provincial ministries. Within this framework, numerous pieces of environmental legislation focus on protecting air, water, soil, wildlife, and the public interest.
The Railway Safety Act provides the legislative basis for developing regulations governing rail safety, security and some aspects of environmental impacts of rail operations in Canada. The Railway Safety Act provides authority for the Governor in Council to make regulations concerning the release of pollutants into the environment from the operation of railway equipment by federally regulated railway companies.
Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, Environment Canada sets regulations for dealing with spills on federally regulated railway rights-of-way.
Provinces have jurisdiction for provincially regulated railways. Provinces are also responsible for their municipalities through various regulatory instruments that govern planning and development, emergency services, and environmental protection. Provinces have jurisdiction over spills and environmental incidents on provincial lands, including environmental response, clean-up and remediation.
In 2000, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented air pollutant emissions regulations for the rail sector, and updated and revised them in 2008. These regulations ensure that locomotives built for sale in the U.S. meet strict emissions standards for NOx, PM, hydrocarbons and CO.
Transport Canada is developing regulations under the Railway Safety Act that align with U.S. EPA regulations, applicable in the Canadian context. While Canadian and U.S. approaches to regulation will differ slightly due to differences in legislation (the U.S. regulates manufacturers of engines while Canada regulates rail operators), the environmental outcome will be similar.
In February 2011, Transport Canada completed preliminary consultations on the development of locomotive criteria air contaminant emission regulations. Six consultation meetings were held in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver and Detroit. A total of 16 formal written submissions were received. Canadian railway companies and their association, the Railway Association of Canada, as well as other stakeholders identified the alignment of Canadian and U.S. regulatory requirements as an important priority.
In addition to regulations for air pollutant emissions, regulators in both Canada and the U.S. have committed to address GHG emissions from locomotives as part of the Joint Action Plan for the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council.
Locomotive emissions monitoring
Under the terms of the 2006–2010 MOU, a Locomotive Emissions Monitoring (LEM) report is published annually by the Railway Association of Canada.7 LEM reports demonstrate the progress achieved by railway operators towards meeting 2010 GHG efficiency-based targets set out in the MOU, as well as air pollutant emissions-related commitments.
The 2009 LEM report summarized GHG emission intensities by category of railway line-haul operation achieved in 2009, compared with annual levels from 2006, 2007 and 2008 and with 2010 MOU targets, as shown in Table RA-29. This table shows that most targets for 2010 were achieved in 2009.
Overall fuel consumed by railway operations in Canada increased from 1,770 million litres in 2009 to 1,932 million litres in 2010. This 9.2% increase in fuel consumption was largely attributable to a 13.9% increase in revenue tonne-kilometres and offset by improvements in energy efficiency (see Tables RA6 and RA7).
Railway environmental initiatives
Since 1995, Canadian railways have taken measures to reduce locomotive emissions under two Memoranda of Understanding. The first MOU was between the Railway Association of Canada (on behalf of the Canadian railways) and Environment Canada, and was in effect from 1995 to 2005. The second was between the Railway Association of Canada, Environment Canada and Transport Canada. It covered the period 2006–2010 and identified Canadian railway company commitments to reduce GHG and air pollutant emissions on a voluntary basis.
Canada's Class I freight railways invest in the economic and environmental sustainability of their railway operations through fleet renewal programs, technology improvements, and adoption of best practices. Both of Canada's Class I freight railways have fleet renewal programs in place to rebuild or replace less efficient locomotives with newer, more fuel-efficient models. New locomotives are built to a higher environmental standard and emit fewer GHG and CAC than older locomotives. Canada's Class I freight railways have continued to deploy new operational measures and technology aimed at reducing locomotive emissions. Initiatives to reduce fuel consumption and emissions include improvements to equipment, operations, technology and infrastructure.
Examples of various initiatives include:
- Locomotive fleet renewal—progressive renewal of fleets that are compliant with U.S. EPA emissions standards.
- Distributed power—placing a remote-controlled locomotive within or at the end of a freight train, which provides greater optimum locomotive power assignment and better air distribution for braking, particularly effective when combined with the running of longer trains.
- Crew training and incentives—training programs that boost awareness of the importance of fuel conservation practices.
- Manual shut-down of locomotive engines—idle shut-down policies in place for locomotives not equipped with anti-idling systems.
- “Block” consolidation of cars with similar destinations—joining cars headed the same way reduces delays and increases fluidity at rail yards and terminals.
Research in Environmental Improvements for Rail Transportation
Government, industry and academic stakeholders continue to work collaboratively and conduct research to facilitate improvements to rolling stock (e.g. developing and testing novel engine concepts), infrastructure interface (e.g. developing new rail materials) and operational improvements (e.g. examining alternative fuels and fuel sources). Current rail research activities also include improvements to measurement, monitoring and verification methodologies in support of rail emission reductions. Currently, Transport Canada's Transportation Development Centre is undertaking a technology and infrastructure scan to make recommendations on promising emission reduction technologies and research opportunities in this area, to inform regulations and a five year research agenda for future policy development.
- Anti-idling technologies—these include, for example, automatic stop/start devices that help railways conserve fuel and reduce emissions by automatically shutting down locomotives at rest.
- Low-idling engines—those that idle at a reduced speed when a train is coasting.
- Rail lubrication systems—solutions to reduce friction between the rail and freight cars, thus requiring less engine effort to maintain speed.
- Improved track structures—enhancements aimed at reducing friction caused by various track features (e.g. sharp curves and uneven roadbeds), as well as investment in double tracking and siding extensions, which lead to efficiency improvements.
- Rail lubrication—trackside flange lubricators and locomotive-mounted wheel flange lubricators to reduce fuel consumption.
- Co-production—sharing of tracks to allow for faster and more efficient operations.
The combined effect of these initiatives and technologies has enabled Canada's Class I freight railways to improve fuel efficiency by approximately 7.3% (CN) and 4.1% (CPR), increasing both the economic and environmental efficiency of rail operations and contributing to the long-term sustainability of Canada's rail freight industry.
Railway Safety Act Review
In 2007, following a series of high-profile derailments in Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia, the Minister of Transport appointed an independent panel to review the existing Railway Safety Act (RSA) and make recommendations for improving both the Act and railway safety in general.
Over one year, the panel gathered input from a full spectrum of stakeholders, including railway companies and their associations, railway unions, shippers, suppliers, other national organizations, other levels of government including municipalities, and the public. These extensive consultations resulted in a final report, Stronger Ties: A Shared Commitment to Railway Safety, which included more than 50 recommendations for improving safety in the rail industry. As a result of this report, the federal government introduced the Safer Railways Act (S-4) in the Senate on October 6, 2011 to amend the RSA. It was approved on December 7, 2011, and tabled in the House of Commons the following day.
Safety management systems
Significant progress has been made over the past several years in the implementation of safety management systems (SMS). In response to Railway Safety Act Review recommendations, an SMS working group was formed to improve implementation of SMS throughout the rail industry. This working group—consisting of representatives from Transport Canada, the rail industry and railway unions—updated and published an SMS Guide, which provides tools and resources that detail how to implement SMS. Included are an accepted definition of safety culture, a safety culture checklist, a list of best practices for small railways, and guidance on how to integrate the 12 principles of an SMS required by section 2 of the Railway SMS Regulations.
Jurisdiction of Rail Safety
Railways that cross provincial boundaries are under federal jurisdiction. For these railways—including CN, CPR and VIA, and more than 50 shortline railways—safety is governed by the Railway Safety Act.
Transport Canada also has agreements with seven provinces to provide inspection services for railways under provincial jurisdiction.
12 Principles of Railway SMS
Railway safety policy and targets are communicated
Authorities, responsibilities and accountabilities for safety are clearly defined at all levels in the railway.
Employees and unions are involved in developing a
Systems are in place to identify applicable safety regulations, exemptions and compliance.
A process is established for identifying safety issues and evaluating and classifying risk.
Risk control strategies exist.
Systems are set up for accident and incident reporting, investigation, analysis and corrective action.
Systems are in place to ensure employee training and compliance with all safety requirements.
Data is collection and analyzed to assess the safety performance of the railway company.
Procedures are followed for internal safety audits, reviews, monitoring and evaluations of SMS.
Systems are created for monitoring management-approved corrective actions resulting from SMS process and procedures.
- Documentation describing the systems for each component of the SMS is consolidated.
In 2011, Transport Canada completed work on improving training for Transport Canada SMS auditors to enhance their capacity to assess the safety performance of railway companies.
Safety performance data
The number of railway accidents has been declining steadily in Canada over the past decade (see Table S1 and Figure S2). From a high of 1,475 in 2005, the number of railway accidents is now down to 1,023, while fatalities were down to 71 in 2011, from a high of 103 in 2005. Most importantly, the accident rate—the number of accidents per million train miles—has been on a downward slope, decreasing from 16 in 2001 to 11 in 2011.
Between 2007 and 2011, crossing collisions were down 22.5% to reach 169 in 2011, while trespassing accidents were down a third to 67 in 2011 (see Tables S3 and S5). Main track derailments, however, have been on the upswing, after sharp declines in 2008 and 2009. In 2011, they reached 103, still one third below levels reported in 2007.
Transportation Safety Board
Transport Canada has made progress on the Transportation Safety Board's (TSB) list of issues and related recommendations.
With respect to the auditing and enforcement oversight of railway safety management systems, guidelines and tools have been developed to assist railways with SMS implementation.
In February 2011, Transport Canada began a Canada-wide study of long-train operations. Phase I preliminary results have been submitted and are under review by Transport Canada, with the objective of developing guidelines for train marshalling and handling.
On November 11, 2011, revisions to Track Safety Rules were approved; these will come into effect on May 25, 2012. The revised rules include significant changes to rail testing requirements (based on tonnage and class of track) and address “poor rail surface” concerns.
Of all TSB recommendations (131), 84% have been fully addressed according to TSB's assessment.
In terms of harmonizing rail safety regulations with other nations, Canada's biggest partner is the U.S. However, in 2011, Canada began working with Mexico to ensure harmonization across North America. Key activities in 2011 were as follows:
- The creation of the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) was announced in early 2011. The mandate of the Council is to better align the regulatory approaches of both countries. Work was initiated towards the development of a Joint Action Plan to advance the goals of the RCC.
- On December 7, 2011 an initial Joint Action Plan was released, outlining initiatives where Canada and the U.S. intend to seek greater alignment in their regulatory approaches over the next two years. Two initiatives were identified: the alignment of rail safety standards and the establishment of a joint mechanism to conduct periodic reviews of regulations.
- Acknowledging that rail sustains domestic and international trade—a major role for both countries' economies—the RCC determined that harmonization of regulatory regimes in the rail sector would enhance the efficiency, safety and reliability of this vital mode of transportation.
- Transport Canada and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) collaborated in the RCC Rail Safety Bilateral Working Group, tasked with the harmonization of the two countries' rail regulatory regimes.
Transport Canada's Rail Safety Outreach program continued its work in education and awareness in 2011. Based on RSA Review recommendations, the target audience for the Outreach program is expanding, as the program widens its focus from public education and awareness of trespassing and crossing safety to also include a broad range of rail safety issues for all stakeholders. To that effect, Transport Canada has hired Outreach officers in each region of the country to target as many stakeholders as possible. Transport Canada also provides funding to the Railway Association of Canada for Operation Lifesaver, which enables the Association to create products designed to raise the general public's awareness of rail safety.
A research project—led by Transport Canada and involving rail industry stakeholders—is underway to investigate factors that influence track-related failures, with the aim of developing tools, methods and technologies to improve track performance. This research also aims to determine more effective and efficient techniques to monitor and identify track-related defects and potential failure conditions on a network-wide basis.
Transport Canada also conducts regular rail-related research to strengthen the safety of Canada's rail sector. Research results are instrumental in providing science-based evidence to inform forward-looking policies, regulations, standards and codes to improve the safety of the Canadian transportation sector. Much of this research is conducted in a collaborative manner through the Railway Research Advisory Board (RRAB)—an industry/government committee mandated to advance the safety of Canada's rail industry. The financial contribution from the federal government is leveraged by at least a 50% contribution from industry.
Sample projects include:
- Visual Behaviour and Conspicuity/Effectiveness of Grade Crossing Elements
- Investigation of Intrusion and Obstacle Detection Systems for Rural and Low Density Rail Grade Crossings
- The first volume of a report on a decision support tool for prioritizing safety improvement programs at high-risk grade crossings
Several action items in the joint Canada-U.S. Perimeter Security Declaration involve rail security elements, including the Integrated Inbound Cargo action item, which strives to streamline the movement of in-transit cargo to and from the U.S. This activity will include pilot projects led by the Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and supported by Transport Canada. One of these preliminary projects will examine the inbound movement of goods along the Prince Rupert–Fort Frances corridor that crosses Western Canada.
- The year for which the latest data is available.
- Environment Canada (2011). Canada's Emissions Trends.
- Environment Canada (2011). National Pollutant Release Inventory.
- Environment Canada (2011). Canada's Emissions Trends.
- TSI operates the Deltaport and Vanterm container terminals at the port of Metro Vancouver. It handles about 70% of containers in Vancouver, making it the largest container operator in Canada.
- See http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/policy/acg-acgb-high-speed-rail-2956.htm
- For more information, visit www.railcan.ca/publications/emissions