Rail Safety – Oversight Program Description And Delivery - Fiscal Year 2021 to 2022

Table of contents

  1. 1. Overview of the Program, Operating Context and Environment
  2. 2. Considerations and Drivers for Oversight Activities Priorities
  3. 3. Oversight Delivery in 2021-22
  4. 4. Organizational Contact information
  5. Annex A: Definitions

1. Overview of the program, operating Context and environment

The Rail Safety Program helps make sure that the rail companies operating in Canada comply with the Railway Safety Act, and any related regulations and standards. The program meets this goal mostly through inspections and audits. The program also makes sure that companies follow the safety-related parts of the International Bridges and Tunnels Act.

The oversight program promotes and monitors compliance and safety. In 2021-22, the program will:

  • complete:
    • inspections and follow-up visits
    • audits
    • enforcement actions
    • notices and orders
    • site visits after incidents
  • meet with the railways
  • respond to questions and complaints, and
  • review and analyze data

The program uses both planned and reactive oversight activities to monitor the railway industry.

  • Component A are planned inspections of randomly selected sites to confirm whether a it complies with Canadian regulations, and identifies potential safety threats
  • Component B are planned inspections that deal with safety and program management issues. Sites are chosen based on risks identified in the business planning phase
  • Component C are unplanned inspections that focus on emerging issues, or follow-up or opportunity inspections. Opportunity inspections are generally the result of a planned inspection (either Type A or B) to a remote location. While on-site, other inspections can be completed as time allows. Follow-up inspections are done, as needed, to check that issues have been dealt with and corrected

Operating context

The external operating environment is marked by:

  • the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 had a significant impact on the program's oversight activities in 2020-2021 and will continue to impact the industry in 2021-2022. As such, the 2021-2022 oversight program reflects the current COVID situation
  • the many exemptions and Ministerial Orders issued in 2020 to address COVID will still be in effect for at least part of the 2021-22 fiscal year. This includes a requirement for passenger health checks and extensions for medicals and recertification requirements
  • rail freight forecast for 2021-22:
    • During the 2020 recession, commodity rail tonnage decreased by 3.2% in 2020. This was mainly due to the decline of crude oil on rail, which makes up 57% of the decrease in the overall commodity rail tonnage
    • In 2021, the overall commodity rail tonnage is expected to increase by 4.2% and return to above pre-COVID levels. This is mainly due to the recovery of commodity markets, a recovery led by crude oil and energy products. After a record year of grain shipments in 2020, volume in 2021 is expected to return to around the same level as in 2019

The internal operating environment is marked by:

  • railways developing new technologies that support automated inspections. Companies have been granted exemptions to current regulations to support these pilot projects
  • in 2021-22, Transport Canada will continue managing the impacts of COVID-19 on Canada's railway industry and workers, who provide the essential services of transporting consumer goods and Canadian products to markets

2. Considerations and drivers for oversight activities priorities

The Rail Safety's Program's priorities are driven by risk which is determined by analyzing data from the Transportation Safety Board and railway companies under the Transportation Information Regulations and Rail Safety's Integrated Gateway.

In 2021-22, the program will maintain a consistent and high level of oversight. The program is planning 36,881 oversight activities in 2021-22.

As always, the program will continue to focus on:

  • movements that exceed the limits of authority
  • blocked crossings
  • uncontrolled movements
  • issues with railway equipment, and
  • fatigue

Two national targeted audits are planned. We expect that most audits will continue to be done remotely.

The Rail Safety Program also plans to continue:

  • improving its risk-based planning process
  • building a more robust training program for inspectors, and
  • improving the Rail Safety Oversight Performance Information Profile (PIP) by setting more meaningful performance indicators
Table 1: 2021-22 total national oversight plan numbers by component


Component A

Component B

Component C

























Prairie and Northern














National Capital














3. Oversight delivery in 2021-22

The delivery of oversight activities, such as planned risk-based inspections and reactive inspections, will be reported through the Canadian Center on Transportation Data (CCDT).

4. Organizational contact information

Transport Canada welcomes your comments on this report.

Email: railsafety@tc.gc.ca

Annex A: Definitions

Required Field



How Transport Canada promotes, monitors or enforces compliance with our safety and security requirements.

Regulatory authorizations

Given when a regulated party (for example, a railway company or vehicle manufacturer) applies for permission to do a regulated activity, or be exempt from it. We may give permission in various forms, including a permit, licence or certification. Transport Canada does not control the number of regulatory authorizations per planning cycle.


A documented, formal examination of industry compliance with Canadian transportation safety and security rules, regulations and requirements. Authorized Transport Canada officials record the results of each inspection. For the purposes of this document, audits are a type of inspection.

*Includes pre-site, onsite, and post-site inspection and oversight activities. Is complete when the inspector submits an approved inspection or oversight activities report. Does not include follow-up action, quality control checks or outreach activities.

Planned, risk-based inspections

All inspections Transport Canada initially commits to doing in a given planning cycle. The SO3 Management Board may authorize updates as needed.

*Include inspections that are announced (and expected), and those that are unannounced. Does not include:

  • estimated numbers of demand-driven activities, such as regulatory authorizations
  • “reactive” or “opportunity” inspections that happen because of a change in oversight

Follow-up activities

Arise from findings of an initial inspection. May include an on-site inspection, requests for more information, or enhanced monitoring.

*Do not include enforcement.

Other activities

Oversight activities that Transport Canada did not initially commit to in a planning cycle, and are not a follow-up to an inspection or audit. 


Measures we use to enforce requirements and compel compliance. For example:

  • letters of non-compliance
  • directions or orders
  • ticketing
  • notices of violation
  • administrative monetary penalties
  • prosecutions
  • suspensions or cancellations of certificates or authorizations

Education, outreach and awareness

How we educate the public, and encourage people and companies to comply with the law (for example: industry conferences, air shows, training, web portal)

Quality control

How we ensure inspectors follow policies and procedures, and complete required documentation. Applies to an entire oversight activity, from inspection, to follow-up, to resolving non-compliance.Supervisors and managers are responsible for quality control.

Each program must have:

  • a documented, nationally consistent way of doing quality control
  • a procedure or set of procedures to ensure inspections follow approved standard operating procedures