Rail Safety – Oversight Program Description and Delivery

Fiscal Year 2017-18

Table of Contents


This document has been developed to standardize the presentation on the web of Oversight Program Description and Delivery for 2017-18. This is part of the Oversight Transparency approach being implemented by Transport Canada.

Executive Summary

From an oversight perspective, the objective of the Rail Safety Program is to verify compliance with the Railway Safety Act (RSA) and its related regulations, rules and engineering standards and regulations through several activities including conducting inspections and audit activities. The program also oversees compliance to the safety related provisions of the International Bridges and Tunnels Act and Regulations.

  • In 2017-18 the expenses associated with Rail Safety (RS) are captured in the Departmental Results Report. This document is available to the public at https://www.canada.ca/en/privy-council/services/reports/departmental-results/2017-2018.html. Rail Safety specifically spent $19.1 million dollars on oversight activities.
  • Rail Safety reviewed its approach to oversight. More emphasis was placed on completing risk-based inspections and a smaller random sample was selected for oversight activities. As this approach was determined to be a sound approach, RS will maintain the smaller random sample used in 2017-18 and will put new resources received in Budget 2016 into risk-based and reactive oversight activities.

    RS has carried out a risk-based business planning process in order to identify risk areas for 2017-18. The following summarizes the key areas of focus for RS's oversight program in 2017-18:

    • Uncontrolled movements;
    • Monitoring and conducting data analysis of key trains/ key routes;
    • Movements Exceeding Limits of Authority (MELA);
    • Fostering higher levels of compliance (especially among smaller operators) to the Grade Crossing Regulations (GCRs); and
    • Addressing the vulnerability of track in the winter.

1. Introduction

The RS Oversight Program and Delivery for 2017-18 provides a picture of RS's key risk areas that were at the forefront for 2017-18. Progress made against inspections, audits, and quality control reviews is reported in the quarterly reports.

RS's Oversight Program

The oversight program is comprised of three primary activities:

  • Promotion of compliance and safety;
  • Monitoring of compliance and safety; and
  • Enforcement of compliance / mitigation of threats to safety.

This program is carried out in a variety of ways: inspections, follow-up inspections, audits, enforcement actions, notices, notice and orders, response to inquiries and complaints, and site visits after incidents in addition to meetings with the railways, review of data and analysis, among other activities. The oversight activities are both planned and reactive. The planned activities are identified through RS's Risk-Based Business Planning (RBBP) process. Using risk as an underpinning consideration, this process yields the planned inspection targets presented in this plan.

2. Operating Context

The following chart describes the rail industry in Canada:


Industry Size


41,711 KM of track Footnote 1


253,000 rolling stock


4,500 crews


23,000 grade crossings (approx. 14,000 public and 9,000 private grade crossings )


9,473 signals

Railway Bridges

6,800 bridges (5,600 railway bridges and 1,200 vehicular bridges over federally regulated railways)



Note these numbers are based on the best information available to Transport Canada as at March 31, 2018.

Canadian railways transport 77 million passengers each yearFootnote 2. Approximately 70 percent of all intercity freight and half of Canada's exports are moved by rail. Freight railways serve more than 10,000 customers and transport more than $280 billion worth of goods a year. The amount of oil being transported by rail declined by approximately 15 percent from March 2015 to March 2016. There were 1,454 railway accidents/incidents in 2015, a slight decrease from the 2014 total of 1,483.Footnote 3 These accidents caused 46 fatalities, down from the 57 recorded in 2014.Footnote 4

External Environment:

  • According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) last October, railway companies continue to face a difficult macroeconomic environment that is negatively impacting their traffic volume: “Grain is doing well and autos are hanging on, but many other commodity categories that depend on a vibrant industrial sector—things like steel, petroleum products, and crushed stone—are not doing as well…”Footnote 5.
  • Canadian railroads reported 81,260 carloads for the week ending November 5, 2016, up 5.7 percent, and 57,839 intermodal units, down 3.3 percent compared with the same week in 2015. For the first 44 weeks of 2016, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 5,767,277 carloads, containers and trailers, a decrease of 4.9 percent.Footnote 6
  • In February 2016 the Government of Ontario reconfirmed its commitment to spend $31.5 billion over the next ten years on transit and transportation projects.
  • In Budget 2016, the Federal Government committed $3.4 billion over three years in additional funding for public transit systems in Canada.

Internal Environment:

  • Budget 2016 provided additional resources to address specific issues; however fundamental program integrity challenges remain beyond the oversight program.
  • Mandatory RSIs training continues, but specialized training with respect to functional expertise through industry-related conferences/events is extremely limited.
  • Increased reporting requirements in response to Transportation Safety Board recommendations, media requests, Access To Information and Privacy, and Transport Canada's internal processes adds to administrative duties of all staff (including RSIs).


Rail Safety has 145 inspector positions in place.

3. Risks and Planning Assumptions

Data is used as an underpinning consideration in the identification of risk areas, and the subsequent oversight planning. RS's internal data, which includes inspection and audit results, enforcement actions, notices, notice and orders, and complaints and inquiries, coupled with the external Transportation Safety Board data is used to identify trends and issues within industry.

Over the course of RS's risk-based business planning process risks are identified and prioritized using a risk matrix and corresponding risk control actions and resource requirements are defined.

Following the risk analysis of the activities, there is a management review and approval process. The issues and risk control actions are discussed at all levels of management, ending with official approval by the Program Business Committee (PBC). Each quarter, progress on these issues and risk control actions are reviewed by RS Senior Management. The process is on-going in RS; risks are always being evaluated and considered as part of the day to day business.

The inspection plan encompasses three (3) distinct components:

  • Component A Inspections: The A sampling inspection program supports a proactive approach to determine compliance and serves to provide data in identifying trends and/or emerging issues that will inform the B program.
  • Component B Inspections: These inspections will take place as planned to address all levels of risk (however the higher risk areas are the priority).
  • Component C Inspections: these inspections include follow-up not only to our inspections but to accidents and incidents reported to the Transportation Safety Board. In 2017-18 an increase emphasis had been placed on allocating resources to follow-ups so that we can better identify our areas of risk. Component C inspections also include opportunity inspections (where an inspector was out doing a planned inspection and completed an unplanned inspection just because he or she was in the vicinity and made sense from an efficiency stand point).

4. Considerations

Accidents and Incidents

Overall the absolute number of accidents and incidents have declined (and are declining) since 2014 (see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: Overall Accidents and Incidents

Text version
  Nov-04 Dec-04 Jan-05 Feb-05 Mar-05 Apr-05 May-05 Jun-05 Jul-05 Aug-05 Sep-05 Oct-05 Nov-05 Dec-05
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 132.6 134.9 135.7 135.9 136.7 137 137.1 137.7 138.7 139.7 140.1 140.4 140.6 140.6
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 138.8 139.3 140.3 139.3 141 139.8 140 140.3 142.8 145.5 144.6 144.4 145.1 143.6
Mthly # 113 140 177 125 153 124 134 152 160 168 150 137 121 122

  Jan-06 Feb-06 Mar-06 Apr-06 May-06 Jun-06 Jul-06 Aug-06 Sep-06 Oct-06 Nov-06 Dec-06
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 140 139.5 139 138.8 139.1 138.7 138.5 138.3 138.1 137.8 137.7 137.8
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 139.7 139.6 138.1 138.3 139.2 136.4 135.8 134 131.6 131.6 131.5 132.6
Mthly # 130 124 135 126 145 119 153 146 121 137 120 135

  Jan-07 Feb-07 Mar-07 Apr-07 May-07 Jun-07 Jul-07 Aug-07 Sep-07 Oct-07 Nov-07 Dec-07
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 137.7 137.4 137.3 136.5 136.4 136.2 136.7 136.2 136.6 136.5 136.3 136.4
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 132.3 131.4 132 131.4 130.2 129.3 130.1 127.9 129.8 129.8 129.4 129.4
Mthly # 127 113 142 119 130 108 163 120 144 136 116 135

  Jan-08 Feb-08 Mar-08 Apr-08 May-08 Jun-08 Jul-08 Aug-08 Sep-08 Oct-08 Nov-08 Dec-08
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 136.1 135.6 135 135.1 134.6 134 133.9 133.7 133.3 133.1 132.6 132.6
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 128.5 130.2 128.9 128.2 126.7 126.2 123.5 124.4 121.3 120.1 118.4 117.9
Mthly # 116 133 127 110 112 102 131 131 106 122 96 129

  Jan-09 Feb-09 Mar-09 Apr-09 May-09 Jun-09 Jul-09 Aug-09 Sep-09 Oct-09 Nov-09 Dec-09
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 132.1 131.4 131.2 130.3 129.7 128.9 128.7 128.2 127.6 127.2 126.6 125.8
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 119.8 116.7 115.8 113.7 112.6 112.5 111.2 109 110.8 109.9 108.7 105.4
Mthly # 139 95 117 84 99 101 115 105 128 111 81 90

  Jan-10 Feb-10 Mar-10 Apr-10 May-10 Jun-10 Jul-10 Aug-10 Sep-10 Oct-10 Nov-10 Dec-10
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 124.6 124.1 123.3 122.9 122.5 121.7 121.1 120.2 119.7 119.5 119.4 118.8
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 102.7 102.8 101.8 102.9 103.7 104.1 104.8 105.7 104.8 106.1 109.1 108.7
Mthly # 106 96 105 98 108 106 124 115 117 127 117 85

  Jan-11 Feb-11 Mar-11 Apr-11 May-11 Jun-11 Jul-11 Aug-11 Sep-11 Oct-11 Nov-11 Dec-11
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 118.6 118.6 118.1 117.6 117.2 117.1 116.5 116 116 115.2 114.9 114
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 109.8 112.1 112 111.7 113.1 113.3 112.8 113.2 113.5 110.3 108.7 108.8
Mthly # 119 124 104 94 125 108 118 120 121 88 98 86

  Jan-12 Feb-12 Mar-12 Apr-12 May-12 Jun-12 Jul-12 Aug-12 Sep-12 Oct-12 Nov-12 Dec-12
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 113.5 113.2 112.7 112.5 111.9 111.9 111.2 111.4 110.7 110.3 110 109.6
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 106.8 104.4 104.9 106.2 103.3 103.5 103.9 104.7 103.3 105.2 105.3 107.3
Mthly # 96 95 110 109 91 110 123 129 104 111 100 109

  Jan-13 Feb-13 Mar-13 Apr-13 May-13 Jun-13 Jul-13 Aug-13 Sep-13 Oct-13 Nov-13 Dec-13
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 109.6 109.1 109.3 109.4 109 109 108.8 108.2 107.8 107.7 108.1 108
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 108.9 109.7 111.9 112.6 112.3 111.6 111.4 108.5 106.4 106.9 108.6 109.9
Mthly # 116 104 137 117 87 102 121 94 79 117 120 125

  Jan-14 Feb-14 Mar-14 Apr-14 May-14 Jun-14 Jul-14 Aug-14 Sep-14 Oct-14 Nov-14 Dec-14
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 108 108.5 108.6 108.7 108.6 108.8 109 109.5 109.7 109.7 110.3 111.2
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 111.8 113.4 112.6 110.2 110.8 111.6 112.2 115.7 120.3 120.2 120 121.3
Mthly # 139 123 127 88 94 112 128 136 135 115 118 140

  Jan-15 Feb-15 Mar-15 Apr-15 May-15 Jun-15 Jul-15 Aug-15 Sep-15 Oct-15 Nov-15 Dec-15
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 111.5 112.2 112.8 113 113.3 113.2 113.1 113 112.9 112.8 112.8 113.1
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 120.1 121.4 122.6 124.6 126.9 126 125.3 123.2 121 121.6 121.6 118.1
Mthly # 125 139 141 112 122 101 119 111 109 122 118 98

  Jan-16 Feb-16 Mar-16 Apr-16 May-16 Jun-16 Jul-16 Aug-16 Sep-16 Oct-16 Nov-16 Dec-16
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 112.7 112.6 112.5 112.5 111.9 111.5 111.4 110.8 110.4 110.8 111 111.3
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 115.8 113.8 110.6 109.1 106 104.7 104.1 102.1 101.2 100 99.3 100
Mthly # 97 116 102 94 85 85 112 87 98 108 109 107

  Jan-17 Feb-17 Mar-17 Apr-17 May-17 Jun-17 Jul-17 Aug-17 Sep-17 Oct-17 Nov-17 Dec-17
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 111.6 112.1 112.6 112.5 112.7 112.6 112.3 112 111.8 111.6 111.8 111.9
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 101.2 102.3 105.4 105.9 107.6 109.2 108.7 110.7 110.3 109.1 109.8 110.3
Mthly # 111 130 139 100 105 104 106 111 93 94 117 114

  Jan-18 Feb-18 Mar-18 Apr-18 May-18 Jun-18 Jul-18 Aug-18 Sep-18 Oct-18 Nov-18 Dec-18
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 112.4 112.8 112.7 112.8 113 113.1 113.1 113.5 114.2 114.2 114.1 113.8
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 113.1 112.8 112.5 114.3 113.8 114 115.2 116.1 118 120.1 120.1 119.1
Mthly # 144 127 135 122 99 106 120 122 116 119 117 102

  Jan-19 Feb-19 Mar-19 Apr-19                
Rolling 60m along Month of Occ Datetime 113.5 114.6 114.4 113.6                
Rolling 12m along Month of Occ Datetime 117.5 122.3 120.9 114.1                
Mthly # 125 185 118 40                

Source: TSB Railway Occurrence Database System dataset as provided to Transport Canada.

5. Initiatives to Strengthen the Oversight Regime

RS is continually working to strengthen its oversight planning, delivery and reporting. RS evaluates the consistency of its oversight actions and is exploring options to further evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of its oversight strategies. This includes the quality management team conducting quality assurance activities on the reviews, and providing reports to management to highlight issues or to make recommendations for efficiencies.

RS is focused on continuous improvement and has a formal Quality Management System (QMS) in place which takes into consideration any opportunity to lean our processes and procedures.

RS takes the recommendations made from the Office of the Auditor General, the internal audit group at Transport Canada, as well as RS's own internal assessment process very seriously, and ensures follow-up to any corrective action. Most recently, RS is concentrating efforts to address some of the recommendations outlined in the Audit of Risk-Based Business Planning in Safety and Security Report. This includes a specific review of the risk-based business planning methodology, including how risks are identified and ensuring a consistent approach across the country.

6. Oversight Delivery in 2017-18

The Railway Safety Management Systems Regulations, 2015 came into effect on April 1, 2015. The purpose of the Regulations is to establish the minimum requirements for a safety management system (SMS) that a company must develop and implement for the purpose of achieving the highest level of safety in its railway operations.

The Railway Safety Act defines Safety Management System as:

A formal framework for integrating safety into day-to-day railway operations and includes safety goals and performance targets, risk assessments, responsibilities and authorities, rules and procedures, and monitoring and evaluation processes

Rail Safety completes comprehensive audits and targeted audits. Comprehensive Audits provide an overall assessment of a railway company's development and implementation of some or all of a system to manage safety in day-to-day operations, and whether the system complies with the requirements of the SMS Regulations. Targeted audits provide an opportunity to conduct an in-depth examination of a safety issue that links to one or more of the railway company’s safety management system processes.

The delivery of the planned risk-based inspections, reactive inspections and regulatory authorizations will be reported through the Canadian Center on Transportation Data (CCTD) as per the Oversight Transparency Integration Plan. The level of oversight delivered and variance explanation will be consistent with the data and information contained in the Safety & Security 2017-18 Integrated Q4 Program Oversight Delivery Dashboard as approved by the respective Programs.

7. Program-Specific Breakdown of Types of Regulatory Authorizations, Planned Inspections or Other Notable Elements (Optional)

Transport Canada's RS Program is responsible for safety oversight of railways that fall under the Railway Safety Act (RSA). This includes railway companies who hold a Certificate of Fitness from the Canadian Transportation Agency, as well as local railway companies, which include provincially-regulated shortlines, light rail transit, and tourist trains that operate on federally-regulated tracks. The Rail Safety Act also applies to road authorities.


The purpose of the equipment program is to provide safety oversight over the state of equipment and determine whether railway companies are complying with associated rules, regulations, standards and guidelines. Inspection types within this category include locomotive, freight car, passenger car, air reservoir, and train break inspections.


The purpose of the Operations program is to verify that railways are operating trains, transfers and yard movements, including the dispatching of trains, in a safe manner by monitoring compliance to the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR), and other relevant regulations, standards and guidelines. Inspection types within this category include crew performance, rail traffic controller, as well as physical yard and physical road inspections.

Occupational Health & Safety

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) inspections are conducted in order to ensure safe workplace conditions in accordance with On Board Trains Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (OBTOHS), Policy Committees, Work Place Committees and Health and Safety Representative Regulations, as well as Part II of the Canada Labour Code and are typically conducted at the same time as operations inspections and locomotive inspections. Inspection types within this category include Occupational Health and Safety committees, workplace, on-equipment and off-equipment inspections.

Crossings and Signals

The purpose of the national grade crossing inspection program is to provide safety oversight of public and private grade crossings on federally-regulated rail lines by inspecting sightlines, surface and signage at grade crossings. The purpose of the signals and communications (S&C) inspection program is to monitor a railway's compliance with the Regulations, Standards and sound engineering principles that govern signals and communication systems and their physical assets, such as Automatic Warning Systems (AWS), Wayside Inspection Systems (WIS) and Wayside Signal Systems (WSS). To this end, in addition to inspecting electrical/electronic control systems signals inspectors also look at the relevant sightlines, surface and signage conditions of crossings with automated warning systems (protected crossings).


Railway Safety Inspectors conduct inspections in order to ensure safe track conditions and to determine whether or not the railway companies are complying with the associated rules, regulations, standards and guidelines particular to track. In addition to walking the track and reviewing railway documentation, inspectors use a Track Assessment Vehicle (TAV) for regulatory compliance inspection activities. Track Assessment Vehicles are high-rail equipped large SUV vehicles with an electronic geometry measurement system to assist Rail Safety Inspectors when conducting field verification track inspections to establish compliance to the Track Safety Rules (TSR).

Railway Bridges

A Bridge inspection consists of either a Record Review, or a Site Visit, or both. The purpose of bridge inspections is to determine how well the railways are managing the risk associated with bridges and to ensure that they are fulfilling their responsibilities with respect to safe railway operations. This is done by identifying deficiencies that have not been, or have been improperly, identified by the railway and could impact the safety of railway operations, the employees, the public, or the environment. In addition, the identification of gaps or weaknesses in how the railway is managing the risks associated with their bridges as outlined in its Bridge Safety Management Program (BSMP) is also examined.

Natural Hazards

Natural Hazards covers a variety of hazard scenarios that may cause physical blockage of the track or potentially derail a train. Natural hazards include landslide, rock fall, debris flow and failure (or erosion) of the subgrade, all of which can have direct impact on railway operations and can result in a serious derailment causing serious injuries and fatalities. The Natural Hazards inspection program is a risk based program designed to provide oversight of railways identification, monitoring and mitigation measures of natural hazard locations. This is accomplished through a risk based program that incorporates both documentation reviews and field inspections.

8. Organizational contact information

Transport Canada welcomes your comments on this report.

Email: railsafety@tc.gc.ca

Annex A: Definitions

Required field



Activities that support the systematic promotion, monitoring, or enforcement of compliance with Transport Canada requirements governing safety or security.

Regulatory Authorizations

A decision-making activity whereby a regulated party submits an application to the Government of Canada seeking permission either to conduct a regulated activity or be exempt from it. The Government may grant permission in various forms, including a permit, licence or certification. Transport Canada does not control the number that will be carried out in a given planning cycle.


An inspection* is a documented, formal examination of industry compliance with Canadian transportation safety and security rules, regulations and requirements, the results of which are recorded by authorized Transport Canada officials. For the purposes of this document, this definition is understood to include audits.

*An inspection is defined as activities related to pre-site, onsite, and post-site inspection/oversight activities that are deemed complete upon submission of an approved inspection/oversight activities report. It does not include any follow-up action, quality control checks or outreach activities.

Planned, Risk-Based Inspections

Planned, risk-based Inspections* include all inspections initially committed to be undertaken in a given planning cycle, with documented updates only as authorized by Safety and Security Management Board.

*Planned, risk-based inspections include both inspections that are announced (and expected), and those that are unannounced. They do not include estimated numbers of demand-driven activities such as regulatory authorizations and reactive or opportunity inspections that arise due to a change in the oversight environment.

Follow-Up Activities

Follow-up activities* arise from findings of an initial inspection. They can include an on-site inspection, requests for additional information from the operator or enhanced monitoring activities.

*Follow-up activities do not include enforcement activities.

Other Activities

Oversight activities carried out in a given planning cycle that were not initially committed to and were not follow-up activities stemming directly from an inspection or audit.


A continuum of activities and functions in support of enforcement actions, responses and measures to compel compliance. Examples include letters of non-compliance, directions/orders, ticketing, notices of violation, administrative monetary penalties, prosecutions, and suspensions/cancellations of certificates/authorizations.

Education, Outreach, Awareness

Any activities that facilitate or encourage voluntary compliance with legal requirements.

Quality Control

In the context of inspection activities, quality control refers to the responsibility of supervisors/managers to ensure that inspectors are following relevant policies and procedures and are completing required documentation.

Programs are required to maintain a documented, nationally consistent quality control approach that establishes a procedure or set of procedures to ensure that an inspection of a regulated enterprise adheres to the Program's approved standard operating procedures. It is to encompass an entire oversight activity, from the conduct of an inspection through verification that any required follow-up action has occurred and findings of non-compliance are resolved.