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


LOCATION: FIELD, BRITISH COLUMBIA (Mile 5.5 of the Mountain Subdivision)


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 Field, British Columbia 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; and
  • Lower operating speeds in metropolitan areas for trains carrying crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas.
  • Following the previous derailment near Field, British Columbia in February 2019, Transport Canada immediately issued a Ministerial Order to mandate the use of handbrakes when a train is stopped on a steep grades. The department has since made these measures permanent by incorporating them into the Canadian Rail Operating Rules.
  • 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.

If pressed on the February 2019 derailment near Field, British Columbia:

  • Transport Canada recently completed its occupational health and safety investigation into this accident. The department has shared its findings with Canadian Pacific, as required by the Canada Labour Code, including direction to implement corrective measures to prevent similar tragic incidents going forward.
  • 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.
  • The RCMP has also launched an investigation into the derailment. Any questions regarding this investigation should be directed to the RCMP.

Background information

  • At 03:36 ET, on January 26, 2021, a derailment occurred at mile point 5.5 of the Mountain subdivision near Field, British Columbia. The derailment involved a Canadian Pacific unit grain train, which had two head-end locomotives and one mid-train locomotive. The mid-train locomotive and approximately 32 cars derailed as they descended a mountain grade (1.2% - heavy grade), west of Field, British Columbia.
  • The speed limit was 30 miles per hour (mph) and the train was travelling westward at 28-29 mph at the time of the derailment. There are no indications the crew was having difficulty controlling the speed of the train. There were no injuries or dangerous good involved.
  • The Transportation Safety Board did not deploy an investigator to the site.
  • This derailment may receive media attention, given that it occurred in the vicinity of a February 2019 derailment, involving three fatalities.

Previous derailment near Field, British Columbia (February 2019)

  • On February 4, 2019, Canadian Pacific (CP) train 301 derailed 99 cars and two locomotives between the Upper and the Lower Spiral Tunnel at Mile 130.6 of the Laggan Subdivision, near Field, British Columbia. The unit grain train composed of 112 covered hopper cars and three locomotives, was proceeding westward to Vancouver when 99 cars and two locomotives derailed. The train crew consisted of a locomotive engineer, a conductor and a conductor trainee. The three crew members were fatally injured in the derailment.

Occupational Health and Safety

  • TC is responsible for the administration and enforcement of Part II of the Canada Labour Code (Code) and its pursuant regulations by the Minister of Labour for employees working on board trains. On behalf of ESDC, TC has a statutory requirement to conduct occupational health and safety (OHS) investigations into workplace accidents that have resulted in the death of employees working on board trains.
  • TC conducted an investigation under Part II of the Code into the three employee deaths that occurred when the train derailed. In relation to this investigation, a Direction was issued to CP on September 23, 2020, for violating certain provisions under Part II of the Code. The OHS investigation report was recently finalized and was sent to CP and CP’s local workplace health and safety committee on October 9, 2020. A question/answer section has been included below, with additional details on the Direction and investigation.

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

  • Following the accident, Transport Canada issued a Ministerial Order on February 8, 2019 under the Railway Safety Act to all railway companies mandating the use of handbrakes should a train be stopped on steep grades after an emergency use of the air brakes. The department has since made these measures permanent by incorporating them into the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR).
  • Taking further action, Transport Canada recently completed its occupational health and safety investigation into this accident. The department has shared its findings with Canadian Pacific, as required by the Canada Labour Code, with the expectation of follow-up measures to prevent similar tragic incidents going forward.

What are the roles and responsibilities for an investigation?

  • When a rail accident occurs, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has the mandate and ability to conduct a full and independent investigation, unfettered by railway company police. Whether the TSB 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.
  • Railway police constables are appointed under Section 44 of the Railway Safety Act by a judge of a superior court for the enforcement of federal or provincial laws for the protection of property owned or administered by a railway company and the safety of the public.
  • Railway police constables have jurisdiction on grounds within 500 metres of railway property that the rail company owns, possess or administers. An important role fulfilled by the railway police in Canada involves protection against trespassing on railway property, which they achieve in part through community outreach on the dangers and consequences of trespassing.
  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and/or the provincial police services also have the ability to investigate any criminal conduct if they have jurisdiction over the area where the accident occurred or where an alleged criminal behavior has occurred. These police services have the discretion and independence to determine when an investigation is warranted, to conduct investigations into alleged criminal conduct, and, depending on the findings, to recommend that criminal prosecution be commenced.
  • In this particular case, the RCMP has completed a preliminary review of this derailment, and an RCMP investigation is now underway. The Canadian Pacific Railway police service has been advised of the ongoing investigation.

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 U.S. brought forward a new tank car specifically designed for the transport of all flammable liquids. The TC/DOT 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

*all older rail cars (DOT 111 and unjacketed CPC 1232 tank cars) in the transport of crude oil have already been phased out.

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 (from November 15 to March 15).
  • 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 (SMS) Regulations, 2015An SMS 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 SMS 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 SMS audit program.
  • Railway Operating Certificate Regulations: A Railway Operating Certificate (ROC) 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 (AMPs) Regulations: Since 2015, Transport Canada may now issue an AMP 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. We may impose them 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

  • TC provides a 24 hour emergency line for first responders staffed with bilingual scientists with emergency response and chemical knowledge.
  • TC publishes the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) which is provided free of charge to first responders to enable them to begin the preparation for a response prior to the call to CANUTEC. The ERG is also available online, as a cellphone application and a downloadable format, all in both official languages.
  • TC has published free of charge for communities and First Responders the ‘You Are Not Alone’ guide which educates a person on the federal and industry support, available at no cost, during a dangerous goods incident
  • TC has developed a flammable liquid curriculum for first responders to help them respond to any flammable liquid incident on road or rail. The first of three courses is available on line. Face to face portions of the curriculum courses will be available following the pandemic.
  • First responders also have around-the-clock support at CANUTEC, Transport Canada’s emergency response centre.
  • Transport Canada’s TDG Program has strengthened regulatory oversight systems in response to a recent audit by the CESD, and will continue to make important improvements to its systems for monitoring regulated entities that handle, offer for transport and import dangerous goods.
    • For example, in 2020, Transport Canada implemented a process to notify Means of Containment facilities with expired certificates to either renew, or confirm they have ceased operations. Those that cannot be confirmed, or which do not respond, are now subject to an on-site visit to verify their status. This new process is now being automated in order to reduce the possibility of human error, save time, and improve consistency of service.
  • Transport Canada has developed detailed guidelines for assessing Emergency Response Assistance Plans (ERAPs), and to track investigations to ensure conditions for holding an ERAP are met, and that they are approved within established timelines.

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.