Rail Safety – Oversight Program Description And Delivery - Fiscal Year 2022 to 2023

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 2022-23
  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. For 2022-23, 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 compliance with Canadian regulations, and identify 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 characterized by:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on Rail Safety's oversight activities in 2021-2022 and will continue to impact the industry in 2022-2023.
  • The multiple exemptions and Ministerial Orders issued in 2021 to address COVID-19 will continue to be effective for at least part of the fiscal year 2022-23.

Rail tonnage outlook for 2022-23

  • In 2022, the overall commodity rail tonnage is expected to be almost flat compared with 2021. In 2022, the rail tonnage of almost every commodity is forecast to continue recovery, but the rail tonnage of crude will decrease and thereby offset the general increase in the rest of the commodities by rail. The forecast plunge in crude-by-rail is due to the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline expansion to the U.S. Midwest, which will absorb up to 760 thousand barrels per day.

The internal operating environment is characterized by:


  • COVID-19 had a significant impact on Rail Safety's oversight activities in 2021-2022 however inspectors were able to maintain inspection activity for the most part with some delays in late Fall/Winter. With reduced restrictions in place only minor impacts are expected for 2022-2023.
  • The development by railways of new technologies that support automated inspections. As railways pilot these technologies, exemptions to current regulations have been granted to support this activity and inspectors must be mindful of this as they complete their oversight.

Coordination and Engagement

  • Regular calls are established with representatives from industry (passenger and freight railways and the Railway Association of Canada) and labour (TCRC, IBEW,).  Expertise from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Canada Border Services Agency and Labour Canada is sought, as needed, to identify and address industry-wide issues as they arise.
  • Bilateral calls are held with companies as necessary to address specific issues.
  • Regular calls are conducted with provincial counterparts to discuss jurisdictional issues including those associated with COVID-19.
  • Engagement in regular conversations with international authorities (US Federal Railroad Administration) continues in order to address cross-border issues.
  • ACRS meetings have resumed on a regular basis.

Regulatory Measures

  • Locomotive Voice and Video Recorder Regulations: SOR/2020-178 are coming into effect September 2022.
  • Opening consultation in 2022 for the Safety Management System Regulation to identify potential amendments requirements
  • Proposing new regulations to further address the issue of fatigue in the railway industry.
  • Moving forward with new Railway Employee Qualification Standards Regulations with the view to address gaps in the training and qualification of railway company's employees.

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.

For 2022-23, the program will maintain a consistent and high level of oversight. The program has 36,610 oversight activities planned.

The main impact risks that the program will particularly focus on are as follows:

  • Previously identified economic, environmental, and human health risks
  • Derailments
  • Trespassing
  • Crossings

Rail Safety is going to:

  • Complement its oversight program by:
    • Promoting compliance and safety
    • Monitoring compliance and safety, and
    • Taking enforcement to address threats to safety
    • Oversee the oversight of the Canada Labour Code for on board rail employees
    • Working with the Centre for Enforcement Expertise, who are now responsible for enforcement of non-compliance to the RSA.
  • Complete:
    • Inspections and follow-up visits
    • Comprehensive and targeted audits
    • Site visits after incidents
  • Meet with the railways
  • Respond to questions and complaints, and
  • Review and analyze data

For 22/23, most inspections should return to normal, with the following considerations

  • Documentary review ahead of a planned onsite inspection or audit will continue to occur to maximize efficiency.
  • Inspections following the receipt of a complaint or when following-up to an incident that was reported to the TSB, will generally be conducted remotely to verify compliance with regulatory requirements. The Canada Transportation Act allows a designated person to exercise their powers and perform their duties using electronic means.
  • SMS Audits will, in some cases, continue to hold opening meetings virtually so that Executives from across the railway industry can fully participate. Interviews with executives outside of Canada may also be done remotely. 
Table 1: 2022-23 total national oversight plan numbers by component


Component A

Component B

Component C

IBT Reports

IBT site visits



























Prairie and Northern
















National Capital
















3. Oversight delivery in 2022-23

The Canadian Centre on Transportation Data provides information on regulatory authorizations, planned risk-based oversight activities, and reactive oversight inspections.

Data on how Transport Canada's safety and security programs oversee the transportation sector

Add/Remove data - Multimodal Safety and Security Programs Oversight Delivery Indicators, by federal government fiscal year quarter, Transport Canada (statcan.gc.ca)

4. Organizational contact information

Transport Canada welcomes your comments on this report.

Email: railsafety@tc.gc.ca

Annex A: Definitions

Required Field Description
Oversight 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