Appearance at TRAN: Supplemental Mandate Letter and on the pre-entry testing requirements




DATE: January 26, 2021


  • Safety is my top priority. Consistent with this priority, Transport Canada 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.
  • Transport Canada will review the accident involving a train derailment near Edmundston, New Brunswick on January 26, 2021, and will take all necessary actions to protect public safety.
  • The department has recently taken steps to reduce the risks of derailment and strengthen rail safety, including:
    • Improved oversight measures, such as increasing the number of inspectors who verify compliance with safety requirements;
    • Lower operating speeds in metropolitan areas for trains carrying crude oil and petroleum gas, and requirement to conduct risk assessments on routes carrying dangerous goods; and
    • Enhanced tank car safety standards including requirements for thicker steel on cars carrying flammable liquids.
  • The department is continuously looking for ways to make our railway system even safer for Canadians. In particular, Transport Canada conducts approximately 33,000 safety inspections each year to verify compliance with regulatory requirements under the Railway Safety Act.

If pressed on the December 2018 accident in Edmundston, New Brunswick

  • Transport Canada completed its occupational health and safety investigation into this accident. The department has shared its findings with Canadian National, as required by the Canada Labour Code.
  • In keeping with my commitment to strengthening rail safety in Canada, my department will monitor the next steps taken by rail companies to improve the safety of Canadians who live and work along rail lines.

Background information

  • At approximately 19:29 ET on January 26, 2021, a Canadian National rail key train carrying 119 loads and 52 empties derailed at mile 8.00 Pelletier Sub, just west of the city of Edmundston, New Brunswick.
    • A ‘key train’ refers to a train carrying 20 or more loaded tank cars of dangerous goods.
  • The train was travelling eastward from Joffre Québec to Edmundston, New Brunswick at a speed of 47 mph. Approximately 22 cars derailed, which included 5 residue of liquefied petroleum gases and 3 loads of liquefied petroleum gases. Temperature at the time of derailment was 3 degrees Celsius.
  • There were no injuries, and no leaks. Hazardous materials responders are on site.
  • The Transportation Safety Board has not yet decided whether to deploy an investigator to the site.
  • The tank cars used to transport liquefied petroleum gases have a 9/16 inch shell thickness a are very robust design that make them particularly crash resistant and are similar to the enhanced tank car standard designed for flammable liquid service.

Accident in Edmundston Yard Resulting in Employee Fatality (December 2018)

  • On December 4, 2018, two rail cars began moving in an uncontrolled manner and collided with a locomotive travelling in the opposite direction. A conductor trainee who was standing on the locomotive’s footboard became trapped between the locomotive and the cars and was fatally injured. The uncontrolled movement was the result of ice buildup on the brakes of the rail cars that prevented sufficient braking force from being applied when the brakes were set.

Occupational Health and Safety

  • Transport Canada is responsible for the administration and enforcement of Part II of the Canada Labour Code and its pursuant regulations on behalf of the Minister of Labour for employees working on board trains. On behalf of Employment and Social Development Canada, Transport Canada has a statutory requirement to conduct occupational health and safety investigations into workplace accidents that have resulted in the death of employees working on board trains.
  • Transport Canada conducted an investigation under Part II of the Canada Labour Code into the fatality.  The investigation report was completed on July 15, 2019 and was provided to the company, as required under the Labour Code.

What are the roles and responsibilities for an investigation?

  • When a rail accident occurs, the Transportation Safety Board has the mandate and ability to conduct a full and independent investigation, unfettered by railway company police. Whether the Board chooses to investigate an accident or not, Transport Canada regularly conducts inspections in order to determine whether there were any regulatory non-compliances under the Railway Safety Act. If Transport Canada’s rail safety inspectors identify a non-compliance, the department does not hesitate to take action.
  • In addition, if a rail accident has resulted in the death of an employee working onboard a train, then Transport Canada inspectors conduct an investigation under Part II of the Canada Labour Code on behalf of the Minister of Labour.
  • The primary purpose of these investigations is to understand the circumstances associated with the accident, prevent recurrence, and undertake compliance activities if appropriate.

What is being done to ensure safe rail operations, given the findings of the investigation/direction and the recent uncontrolled movements of railway equipment?

  • Transport Canada has taken many steps to strengthen rail safety, including implementing stricter rules to secure trains and reduce the risk of uncontrolled movement of rail equipment.
  • In September 2020, Transport Canada issued a Ministerial Order requiring companies to revise the Canadian Rail Operating Rules to adopt new practices for employees to follow when conducting switching operations to ensure that equipment is properly secured.
  • The Department revised Rule 112 of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules on train securement requiring additional physical defences to secure unattended trains. Rule 112 provides uniformity in hand brake application by requiring handbrakes to be applied according to a chart that is based on train tonnage and grade. The Rule also requires an additional means of securement when equipment is left unattended on main track, sidings, subdivision track, and high risk locations.
  • In April 2020, Transport Canada approved a new Rule 66 of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules, which will help ensure that effective safety procedures are applied to all trains that come to emergency stops on both heavy grades and mountain grades. This change to the Canadian Rail Operating Rules puts into place additional permanent layers of defence to secure attended trains and prevent an uncontrolled movement on both heavy grades and mountain grades.
  • Transport Canada continues to work on revisions to the Railway Employee Qualification Standards Regulations to strengthen oversight requirements and address gaps related to training and experience of employees to ensure that they can safely conduct their duties.

Progress achieved toward strengthening rail safety:



Hiring of more Inspectors

  • The number of rail safety inspectors increased from 107 to 152.
  • The number of inspectors who inspect dangerous goods tripled from 30 to 90.

Enhanced Standards for Tank Cars

In May 2015, Transport Canada, along with the United States brought forward a new tank car specifically designed for the transport of all flammable liquids. The Transport Canada/Department of Transport 117 tank car is a much more robust jacketed tank car. It is made with:

  • thicker steel (9/16 of an inch);
  • thermal protection;
  • full head shield protection
  • top fitting protection; and
  • a new bottom outlet valve design.

Reduced Operating Speeds

  • Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes: In 2016, Transport Canada established these rules which require railway companies carrying large volumes of dangerous goods to reduce the speed of their trains:
  • Further speed restrictions imposed by Ministerial Order in early 2020 requiring railway companies to maintain lower speeds in metropolitan areas for trains carrying large quantities of crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas with further mandatory speed reductions everywhere during the winter months.
  • In addition to speed restrictions, the rules require railway companies to carry out additional and more frequent inspections of their tracks, and incentivizes the installation of broken rail detection technology.

Key Route Risk Assessments

  • Under the Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes, railway companies must conduct risk assessments that consider, at a minimum, 28 factors to determine the level of risk associated with each key route.
  • Railway companies must also incorporate input from municipalities and other levels of local government into key route risk assessments through a publicly-accessible website.

Mandatory use of sufficient hand brakes

Securement of Unattended Trains: Rule 112 of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules has been amended to impose stricter requirements on the securement of unattended trains, including: rail companies must adhere to a chart on minimum handbrake requirements; before leaving any equipment in a given location, a railway employee must confirm with another employee the manner in which the equipment was secured; and, when railway equipment is left unattended in high risk locations, operators must take more measures to secure it.

More stringent regulations

  • Safety Management Systems Regulations, 2015: provides railway companies with a focused approach to building a “safety culture” throughout the company and includes the company’s safety goals and performance targets, risk assessments, responsibilities and authorities, procedures, and monitoring and evaluation processes.
  • Since 2015, Transport Canada has increased the frequency of Safety Management Systems audits to a three-to-five year cycle, or more frequently if required. We have also recruited specialized auditors to enhance the effectiveness of the Safety Management Systems audit program.
  • Railway Operating Certificate Regulations: A Railway Operating Certificate is an official document issued by Transport Canada that authorizes a federal railway company or a local railway company to operate in Canada by meeting baseline safety requirements.
  • Railway Administrative Monetary Penalties Regulations: Since 2015, Transport Canada may now issue an Administrative Monetary Penalty to a company found to be in non-compliance with rules and regulations. Maximum penalties are $250,000 for a corporation and $50,000 for an individual. The penalties may be imposed for each day of the contravention.
  • Amendments to the Railway Transportation Information Regulations: Set out what information and data elements companies must submit to Transport Canada. They were amended to include railway safety data (known as “leading indicators”) to help proactively identify areas of risk.
  • Grade Crossings Regulations:  Designed to help reduce the frequency and severity of accidents at Canada’s approximately 23,000 federally-regulated grade crossings, therefore saving lives and preventing injuries and derailments.
  • Locomotive voice and Video Recorder Regulations: Allow proactive risk management through the analysis of data that previously would not have been accessible.

More information shared with municipalities

In April 2016, the Minister of Transport issued Protective Direction 36 which provides registered communities access to comprehensive dangerous goods information provided by railway companies, including the volume and nature of dangerous goods being transported by rail. Communities with a railway operating through them can use this information to assess risks, plan for emergencies and guide first responder training.

Better support for first responders

  • The resources available to first responders in the community now include competency guidelines, a guidebook and an online training tool for first responders.
  • A Transport Canada publication, You’re Not Alone!, is a quick reference guide for first responders coping with a major rail accident.
  • First responders also have around-the-clock support from scientists at the Canadian Transport Emergency Centre operated by Transport Canada.

Stronger liability and compensation rules

  • In 2016, stronger liability and compensation rules for federally regulated railways came into force. Federally regulated railways now must carry a minimum level of insurance, based on the type and volume of dangerous goods they carry. The amount ranges from $25 million to $1 billion. Railways need to show they have this coverage before the Canadian Transportation Agency issues the certificate of fitness they need to operate.
  • The new rules also created the Fund for Railway Accidents Involving Designated Goods financed by shippers of crude oil by rail. The fund covers any damages above the railways’ mandatory insurance levels for accidents involving crude oil.