Grade Crossings REGULATIONS (GCR)
ISSUE/SOURCE: railways, municipalities and private landowners are calling for an extension to the GCR compliance deadline
Date: February 5, 2021
- Rail safety is a top priority for Transport Canada. The department is committed to protecting all Canadians who live and work along rail lines by putting in place the necessary measures to reduce the risk of serious accidents.
- In keeping with this commitment, Transport Canada conducts inspections to verify that crossings meet the safety requirements under the Grade Crossings Regulations. These safety requirements are necessary to reduce the frequency and severity of accidents at crossings.
- Under the Regulations, owners of existing crossings have until November 2021 to comply with the safety requirements. These include, for example, requirements for signage, sightlines and warning systems.
- Based on feedback received from railway companies, municipalities, and private landowners, Transport Canada is considering a potential extension of the compliance deadline. A potential extension will take into account the economic realities created by the pandemic, while respecting the need to strengthen rail safety in Canada.
- Going forward, Transport Canada will continue to work closely with municipal associations as well as the railway industry to facilitate the successful implementation of the Regulations.
- The department is continuously looking for ways to make our railway system even safer for Canadians. In particular, Transport Canada conducts more than 35,000 safety inspections each year to verify compliance with regulatory requirements under the Railway Safety Act.
- Transport Canada also provides funding support for improvements to grade crossings, through its Rail Safety Improvement Program. For example, this program provides up to 80% of total eligible expenditures (e.g. crossing protection, signage, infrastructure improvements), with a maximum grant of $25,000 per crossing.
- No one will lose access to their fields, homes or cottages as a result of the regulations.
- Railway companies, road authorities (provinces, municipalities, band councils), and private crossing owners share responsibility for managing railway crossing safety in Canada.
- In November 2014, Transport Canada (TC) introduced new Grade Crossings Regulations (GCR) to help reduce the frequency and severity of accidents at federally-regulated crossings. The GCR sets comprehensive and enforceable safety standards for grade crossings.
- The Grade Crossings Regulations (GCR) made pursuant to the Railway Safety Act, improve safety at grade crossings by:
- using engineering best practices to make sure all crossing users can have a safe crossing experience;
- putting in place clear and enforceable safety standards for both new and existing crossings; and
- defining the roles and responsibilities of private authorities and railway companies.
- Under the current regulations, existing crossings, railway companies, road authorities, and private land owners have until November 2021 to comply with requirements, such as signage, sightlines, and warning systems.
- Starting in 2015, Transport Canada took and continues to take measures to ensure road authorities, private crossing owners and railway companies have the information needed to comply with the regulations and to understand what funding is available.
Role of the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA)
- Transport Canada works closely with the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) regarding crossing safety. The CTA is able to assist in determining who is financially responsible for construction and, in the case of an existing crossing, maintenance costs.
- The CTA may also assist private land owners and public road authorities in negotiating agreements with the railway companies. The Agency notes that there are many private crossings in Canada with no written authorizations.
Rail Safety Improvement Program (RSIP)
- TC provides funding support for improvements to grade crossings, through its Rail Safety Improvement Program. RSIP is a comprehensive approach to improving the safety of rail transportation through investment in infrastructure, technology, research, public education, and awareness.
- The program provides federal funding, in the form of grants and contributions, to improve rail safety and reduce injuries and fatalities related to rail transportation towards two key components:
- Infrastructure, Technology and Research; and
- Public Education and Awareness Component.
Q: Will the deadline of November 2021 for compliance to the regulations be extended?
Transport Canada is currently considering amendments to the November 2021 compliance deadline for the Grade Crossing Regulations. The department has conducted a public consultation during the month of January on its Let’s Talk Transportation website.
This review will need to be balanced, accounting for economic and safety considerations. Accidents at grade crossings are a serious safety issue, representing approximately one-third of fatalities and half of all serious injuries from railway accidents. To address this serious issue, the Grade Crossing Regulations establish safety requirements that better protect Canadians who live and work along rail lines.
The department has received considerable input from railway companies, road authorities and private landowners with respect to the compliance deadline. Transport Canada is reviewing this input to consider possible options and next steps, in a manner that accounts for economic realities during the pandemic, while delivering on our fundamental commitment to strengthen rail safety in Canada.
Q: What was the consultation process to develop the Regulations?
An inclusive and extensive consultation process was undertaken, including working groups and national consultation meetings. This included, for example, representatives of provinces, municipalities, railway companies, railway unions, and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
Of note, Transport Canada held six dedicated townhall meetings with stakeholders across the country. Since the coming into force of the regulations, Transport Canada has continuously undertaken efforts to ensure regulated parties had the information they needed to comply. For example, Transport Canada conducted a letter writing campaign, covering 1,656 road authorities. Fact sheets and compliance guidance were created and were distributed through associations like the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The department’s website is updated on an ongoing basis and has information specific to public and private crossing owners.
Also, Transport Canada meets regularly with associations such as Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM), and Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), and Union of BC Municipalities.
Q: How are you taking into account the impacts on farmers?
Transport Canada has consistently heard from the stakeholder community – farmers, rail companies, municipalities – that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted readiness to meet the compliance deadline.
Transport Canada has reviewed the input received from provinces, municipalities and associations representing farmers to date in order to assess the situation and identify the best approach to addressing these challenges.
Railway companies have been reaching out to owners of private crossings to determine what work, if any, is necessary to ensure they comply with the Grade Crossings Regulations. In situations where the owner of a private crossing has an agreement with a railway company, or one has been filed with the Canadian Transportation Agency, the cost might be shared between the private landowner and the railway. Where agreements do not exist, the Agency may assist landowners in negotiating and putting in place agreements with the railway companies.
No one will lose access to their fields or homes as a result of these regulations.