Promoting safer grade crossings for all Canadians
The safety of Canadians remains Transport Canada’s top priority. Despite ongoing outreach activities and the advent of new technologies, avoidable collisions continue to occur at federally regulated grade crossings. This is why, in January 2012, Transport Canada launched a comprehensive public consultation process to help improve how railway companies and road authorities manage the safety of grade crossings.
As a direct result, the Grade Crossings Regulations introduce several requirements that would improve safety standards, clarify roles and responsibilities, and facilitate information sharing.
The key aspects of the Regulations include:
Enforceable Grade Crossings Standards
The Regulations incorporate standards based on the current best engineering practices and makes them law. This brings all grade crossings in Canada to the same standard. Railway companies and road authorities will be required to meet these safety standards when building or altering grade crossings as well as bring existing grade crossings in compliance, through measures such as the introduction of signs and warning systems.
Managing roles, responsibilities, and information sharing
Grade crossing safety is a shared responsibility between railway companies, road authorities, and private authorities. The Regulations clearly define who is responsible for the design, construction, maintenance and inspection of the crossing surface, signage, and warning systems.
The Regulations require railway companies and road authorities to share basic safety related information on their grade crossings. Sharing this information with each other will allow them to assess the safety of their infrastructure and determine what they need to do to make their crossings safer.
Improving safety features
A safe crossing is a visible crossing — so the Regulations contain formulas for defining the area that road authorities, railway companies and private land owners must keep clear of anything that could block a road user’s view of an oncoming train. Under the Regulations, railway equipment cannot block a public grade crossing for more than five minutes when a road user requires passage, unless the railway equipment is moving. When emergency vehicles require passage, railway companies must immediately clear any grade crossing. If a municipality has a safety concern relating to a crossing that is blocked, both parties must work together to find a solution to the safety concern. After 90 days, if they find no solution, the municipality can inform Transport Canada. Other safety features include design plans for warning systems and standards for maintaining, inspecting and testing traffic control devices. Railway companies are now required to keep records of these activities and of any system malfunctions or failures for a minimum of two years.
Temporary protection measures are required when activities are undertaken at a railway line or road crossing that pose a risk to the safety of railway operations. The requirements a municipality must meet for the cessation of train whistling at public crossings has been defined in the Regulations and will also come into force.
The Grade Crossings Regulations address the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) Watchlist issue that the “risk of passenger trains colliding with vehicles remains too high in busy rail corridors”.