2020-21 Summary of Intermodal Surface Security Oversight Inspections


The Intermodal Surface Security Oversight Branch works with stakeholders to help improve the security of Canada's intermodal and surface transportation system. The branch focuses on passenger and freight rail (including railways that handle or transport dangerous goods), urban transit, and international bridges and tunnels. A large part of this work involves risk-based planning and oversight, as well as providing guidance to companies that own and operate these transportation systems.

Inspection cycle

The branch uses a risk-based approach to oversee Canada's intermodal and surface transportation systems. The oversight programs assess the risks of all railway sites, facilities, and stations that fall under the regulatory or voluntary programs – around 1,200 locations in all.

Inspections of sites, facilities, and stations are prioritized based the result of these risk assessments. Higher risk sites are inspected first, followed by lower risk ones.

Inspection activities, results, and statistics

The branch had 9 different types of inspections in 2020-21. The main focus of the inspections was to validate the information outlined the operator's security plan.

In 2020-21, the branch's 16 inspectors did more than 990 inspections, or about 87% of planned inspections. It's important to note that some higher risked sites were inspected more than once.

When inspectors find a deficiency (issue), they explain the problem to the site operator and recommend solutions.  An inspector will then follow-up to make sure that issues raised during an inspection are addressed. The Intermodal Surface Security Oversight Branch continues to develop its program to enforce the new freight and passenger rail security regulations.


  • Oversight work was affected by an increase in railway incidents, most notably railway blockades and protests in different parts of Canada. An increase in railway incidents that involved tampering and trespassing led to more reactive inspections, where follow-up was required.
  • Oversight work was also impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic which began in the fourth quarter of 2019-20 and continued throughout 2020-21. As a result, the branch postponed a number of on-site oversight activities early in the year, shifting the focus to desktop/remote inspections (like security plan reviews, other documentation reviews, etc.).


  • The branch successfully implemented the Transportation of Dangerous Goods by Rail Security Regulations in 2019-20 and continued to develop, deliver, and oversee the program throughout 2020-21. A major focus was on reviewing stakeholders' security plans as this was the first time they were submitted under the new regulations.
  • The branch began to implement the new Passenger Rail Transportation Security Regulations in late 2020, including developing standard operating procedures and other documents. This led to less oversight work done under the rail security Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This trend will continue as the regulations are meant to replace the MOU.

Contact information

Please email your questions or comments about this report to: TC.Railsecurity-sureteferroviaire.TC@tc.gc.ca.