Railway Safety Act Review 2017–18

On April 26, 2017, the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport launched a Statutory Review of the Read the full Terms of reference: Railway Safety Act Review 2017–18 (the Act).

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Final Report

Read the 2018 Railway Safety Act Review final report: Enhancing Rail Safety in Canada: Working Together for Safer Communities.

Scope and mandate of the Review

The Review will focus on the effectiveness of the federal rail safety legislative and regulatory framework, the operations of the Act itself, and the degree to which the Act meets its core objective of ensuring rail safety is in the best interest of Canadians.

The Minister of Transport has appointed Mr. Richard Paton as Panel Chair to lead the Review, with the support of Vice-Chairs Ms. Brenda Eaton and Ms. Pauline Quinlan. The Review will be also be supported by a Secretariat.

The Review will be guided by the terms of reference established by the Minister of Transport, which determine the mandate and scope for the Review.

The mandate of this Review stems from the Act, which requires a comprehensive review of the operation of the Act no later than 5 years after the day that section 51 (1) came into force. As committed in the Government Response to the June 2016 Report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, and as part of Transportation 2030 – A Strategic Plan for the Future of Transportation in Canada: Safer Transportation, the Minister of Transport has accelerated the Review to begin on May 1, 2017, rather than in May 2018, to evaluate more promptly the current state of rail safety in Canada.

The Panel is expected to submit a report to the Minister of Transport by May 2018. Transport Canada will then carefully consider the findings and any recommendations and will take appropriate action to further strengthen rail safety in Canada.

The last Review of the Act was completed in 2007. A report, Stronger Ties: A Shared Commitment to Railway Safety, was published as a result.

Biographies of Review Panel members

Panel Chair: Richard Paton MA, MPA

Richard Paton was President of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada from 1996-2015, an association which is a global leader in Responsible Care and deeply committed to all aspects of safety in its operations, including transportation.

In his 24 year career in the federal government, Richard was a senior executive in several departments. He was an executive at the Office of the Auditor General from 1981-1986 where he led comprehensive audits of two departments. He was Assistant Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Board 1988-1996.

As Deputy Secretary of the Program Branch at Treasury Board, he led a very large staff which were responsible for reviewing and allocating resources to all departments, agencies and crown corporations. He led the historic Program Reviews for Treasury Board in 1995 and 1996 that resulted in a balanced federal budget. He was also responsible for leading the groups responsible for the innovation of government policies in a range of areas including regulatory affairs, procurement, alternative service delivery, information technology, and real property.

Richard is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Masters in Public Policy and Administration program at Carleton University. He teaches two courses- one on the management of public organizations and the other in leading non profits and associations. These courses are based on the three textbooks that Richard published between 2013 and 2015.

Richard has a Masters in Canadian Studies from Carleton University (1975), and a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University (1981).

Panel Vice-Chair: Brenda Eaton


Brenda Eaton is an experienced corporate director, serving on the Boards of a number of private, public, not-for-profit and crown corporation Boards. She currently sits on the Boards of Fortis BC, Westland Insurance, BC Safety Authority, Transelec and Victoria's Core Area Wastewater Treatment Project Board. For seven years Ms. Eaton was Chair of BC Housing, and she has also served on the Boards of BC Hydro and Translink. In 2016, she was a member of British Columbia's Judicial Compensation Commission.

Prior to becoming a corporate director Ms. Eaton was a senior leader in the BC Government. From 2001-2005 she was Deputy Minister to Premier Gordon Campbell. Prior to that she held executive positions in the BC Government, including Deputy Minister of Finance and Treasury Board; Energy and Mines; and Social Services. For several years she was Chief Financial Officer of a Health Authority.

Ms. Eaton has also been active in the non-profit sector. She currently serves on the Boards of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the Max Bell Foundation and the BC Alzheimer's Society.

Ms. Eaton is certified by the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD.D) and has received several recognition awards including the Queen's Jubilee Award for community contribution, University of Victoria's Distinguished Alumni and WXN's 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada.

Ms. Eaton has a Master's Degree in Economics.

Panel Vice-Chair: Pauline Quinlan


First woman to be elected in Bromont in November 1998, Pauline Quinlan has served five consecutive mandates, giving her nearly 20 years of experience in politics. She sat on the Board of Directors of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, where she served as Co Chair of the Rail Safety Committee following the tragedy of Lac-Mégantic, Chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development since 2015. She was also Chair of the Quebec Caucus from 2011 to 2015. She is fluent in both official languages in Canada and was called upon to act as FCM's spokesperson on a variety of issues across Canada. Mrs. Quinlan also works within the Union des municipalités du Québec as a member of the Training Committee and a member of the Commission for Planning and Transportation.

At the local level, Mrs. Quinlan has enabled the City of Bromont to adopt a sustainable development plan for the next twenty years. During these five terms, she was the instigator for the creation of the Bromont Economic Development Corporation, of which she is the president. This contributed to the recognition of the Bromont Science Park, which enabled the implementation of the microelectronics research center in partnership with the University of Sherbrooke the provincial government, the federal government and IBM and Teledyne-Dalsa. She also chairs the Local Development Center of the Regional County Municipality of Brome Missisquoi since 2011.

In 2011, she was the recipient of the Marcelle B.-Trépanier Tribute Award from the Réseau des élues municipales de la Montérégie Est. She also received the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013.

Prior to her political career, Pauline Quinlan graduated from the University of Sherbrooke where she obtain her degree in Education and worked in the field for 35 years as a teacher, counselor and principal.

Thematic Roundtable Summaries

2017-2018 Railway Safety Act Review
Technology Roundtable
November 1, 2017 (1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.), Calgary, Alberta


  • Mitch Beekman, Vice President, Safety and Environment, CN
  • Keith Shearer, GM Regulatory & Operating Practices, CP Rail
  • Perry Pellerin, President, Western Canadian Short line Association, and CEO, Great Sandhills Railway
  • Tanis Peterson, Director, Operations and Regulatory Affairs, Railway Association of Canada
  • Don Ashley, National Legislative Director, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference
  • Chris Garod, Legislative and Health and Safety Representative, Unifor Local 100
  • Derek Martin, CaRRL Director, University of Alberta
  • Dwight Tays, Former Chief of Engineering, CN - retired
  • Jason Kumagai, Principal Human Factors Consultant, Optimal Fit Inc. (formerly of SixSafety Systems)
  • Ron Davis, Account Manager - Business Development, Sperry Rail
  • Gary Fry, Senior Scientist II, Transportation Technology Center, Inc.
  • John Coleman, Consultant
  • Bill Mountain, Railterm


  • Shannon Sandford, Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, Transportation and Infrastructure, Government of New Brunswick
  • Michael Gullo, Director, Policy, Economic and Environmental Affairs, Railway Association of Canada (RAC)
  • Mitch Beekman, Vice-President, Safety and Environment, CN
  • Eric Harvey, Senior Counsel, Regulatory Affairs, CN
  • Bruce Snow, National Rail Director, Unifor
  • Chris Garrod, Vice-President, Legislative and Health and Safety, Local 100, Unifor
  • Mark Robinson, Legislative and Health and Safety Representation, Council 4000, Unifor

Summary of Discussion

Disclaimer: This summary is intended to reflect high level perspectives and insights on aspects of Canada's rail safety regime shared by participants to the discussion. Opinions and information raised by individuals over the course of the meeting may not be factually accurate. The statements expressed in this document do not necessarily reflect the views of the Railway Safety Act Review Panel.

Notes on Roundtable Discussion:

The Technology Roundtable focused on key outstanding gaps or issues related to the development, adoption and deployment of safety-enhancing technologies in Canada's railway industry, and identifying practical ways that to better leverage the full potential of emerging technologies to increase the safety and security of Canada's rail transportation system.

Highlights of the discussion follow, grouped according to the questions that were shared with participants in advance of the meeting.

Roundtable Discussion Questions

  1. What is the government's and industry's role in promoting innovation? Should the RSA more clearly define the role of the regulator and stakeholders in the development and adoption of new technologies into the rail safety regime? Is the security of the rail transportation system being adequately addressed through current measures and practices, particularly given the potential risk introduced through a more technologically-driven system?
    • All agreed that technology has an important role in rail safety. It was pointed out that there is technology available that is 10 years old and more efficient than processes currently in place in the safety regime, but the regulation around these technologies has yet to change. For example it was stated that wheel impact detectors are currently used by companies, but there are no parameters in regulation for its use. Some suggested a need for a comprehensive regulatory review, to modernize outdated regulations and reduce redundancies.
    • Technology also needs to have an efficiency gain – companies need regulator buy-in to invest in technology up front. In another example, [a rail company] has been implementing brake technology in one region under exemption from the regulator (an 8-year cycle), which it would like to see scaled up to expand its use across the network nationally. However, the regulator is not working with the industry to determine what needs to change in the safety regulatory regime to allow this technology to be adopted into regulations. What was missing was collaboration between the regulator and the company on this technology in the early testing phase.
    • There was also concern that there was too much reliance on safety management system (SMS) alone to respond to new technology, the associated training process, and regulation around it. Transport Canada was seen as needing to be proactive to the emergence of new technology, particularly given the cost-savings of technology to replace outdated processes and the significant safety improvements it derives.
    • A comment was made that the industry-driven approach to technology in the rail sector, as in other sectors, has achieved significant progress. Others stressed that Transport Canada should be involved at all points in the development of new technology, with roles of parties defined in legislation. All noted that the regulator should step up in determining if new technology is safe, and give early indication that they will work with industry to adopt it.
    • In addition, there was a call for more regulations and physical inspections using technology to augment what is already being done. Proper training on the use of technology has to be captured in regulations and standardized nationally. It was felt by many participants that the regulator has no "technology culture", or a mindset to look forward to new technologies and advances by industry. It was noted that the Transportation Safety Board makes recommendations to Transport Canada regarding the use of technology. It was also stated that there are individuals with Transport Canada who are interested in, and receptive to, technology – does the system need to give them a voice?
    • Participants noted that regulations need to be flexible, to allow companies to use and achieve benefits from new technology in a timely manner. Changing regulations take time; regulations should be drafted to be flexible at the outset. What is needed are common goals between the regulator and industry, with an environment that promotes innovation. The rule-making process was not seen to be any different, with perceptions expressed that the regulator is risk-averse. It will allow the use of new technology, but keep the old way of doing things in place as well – so where is the benefit for the company?
    • The Association of American Railroads (AAR) was described as a consensus-practice organization. If something is not recommended as a practice, it is difficult for a rail company to step up to be first. However, it was noted that there is a need to ensure there are no unintended consequences – that a new process/technology has real versus intended results. The system requires checks and balances. The American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-way Association (AREMA) has a process to go through to get regulations/measures adopted. They don't want to see full implementation of technology done on a waiver. Their process ensures that there is comfort of all in putting a new technology into the manual. The fastest consensus-based industry wide practice going through this process took approximately 4 years.
    • One participant noted that while some technology coming out is impressive, does it really make us that much safer? Given public perception of the industry, the government needs to be involved to do the checks and balances to ensure new technologies are accomplishing what they are intended to do. Government has a role to challenge new technology, to be able to demonstrate to public satisfaction that the system is safe.
    • Some felt that security is not being addressed, especially cyber-security. Historically, signal systems safety resided in the equipment located in bungalows alongside the track at signal locations. Any communications between the wayside equipment and other locations and/or the control centre were "non-vital", meaning that if there were unsafe commands within the communication, the safety systems along the track would still react safely. Now as the system moves to new technology, such as PTC, safety-related messages are being transmitted wirelessly between back offices, wayside locations, and even locomotives. These messages are now potentially exposed to hackers. It was proposed that system monitoring for security purposes be done by Transport Canada, and not outsourced.
    • Others indicated that rail companies recognize the risk of cyber-attacks, as these are risks to safe operations and commercial operations as well. Rail companies have IT specialists to monitor this and are comfortable with the systems they have in place now.
    • It was noted that in the U.S., the government is funding technology initiatives like the Pueblo Center with a recurring $35M annually which provides certainty for long-term research. There is nothing similar to this in Canada.
    • A representative from the Pueblo Center indicated that a process exists in the U.S. to allow small companies with good ideas to get into the trial process at TTCI. This confirms that for innovation to take place, you need a process that would support the rolling out of new technology but not under waiver or exemptions as it is the case now under the RSA.
    • Industry is involved in security. The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) has a security committee, and works with the US and other international jurisdictions. Questions were raised around whether Transport Canada gets information to rail operators if there is a credible threat (including real-time communications to allow immediate reaction to events), and whether there is a security protocol in place between Transport Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service , and other security organizations?
    • One participant indicated that a risk-based methodology to allocate resources in support of innovation derives the maximum safety returns and that Transport Canada must accept that new technology is better in some instances than long established practices.
  2. What policies and other mechanisms are needed to support the emergence, adoption and deployment of innovative transportation technologies? What do you see as the top 2-3 emerging technologies likely to have the most impact on rail safety in the coming years that should be a priority focus of industry and government?
    • When determining the benefit of technology, this needs to map against priorities for safety. The #1 cause of deaths and serious injuries has not changed in the last 50 years, it is crossing accidents. The Transportation Safety Board puts statistics out, and Transport Canada is aware of crossings issues. It was proposed that the government should focus on crossings technology. GPS systems in motor vehicles is a potential option. Operation Lifesaver has reached out to Google on this. If crossings are alerted in vehicles, there is a potential to stop the cars, as you can't stop a train quickly. Mapping could potentially show alternate routes around blocked crossings. There was broad agreement that is a multi-jurisdictional issue, with a need to look at multiple avenues to address it.
    • In response to a question on how to address the issue of crossings, it was noted that the resources there now [the $55 million/3 years, Rail Safety Improvement Program] to support needed improvements are not adequate. One participant observed that focus should be on technology with the biggest bang for the buck, but there is limited technology to prevent collisions at grade crossings; will cameras at crossings really make a difference? Public outrage is the biggest impetus for change. No one is outraged about suicides on rail tracks, rail crossing deaths, or the number of people killed in motor vehicle accidents – we all still drive. The participant questioned the value in new technology until automated vehicles come onboard, given that there should be a way to employ technology there.
    • Another participant countered that technology companies would respond to calls for proposals for crossings innovations, if they knew that technology R&D would have an audience, and they would have support in navigating the government process. Others added that issues on technology propriety would need to be considered, as safety technology should be shared across the industry.
    • Technology that assesses rail operations in motion is the future, for moving equipment, detecting things when a train is in motion. Track inspection technology and data that provides for predictive analytics on track infrastructure is a priority focus for the industry.
    • Human factors technology, such as LVVR, can give the industry a tool to get ahead of the game, to show where to target training, although some felt that LVVR was a reactive, versus proactive technology. Consideration also needs to be given to in-cab technology and to making sure that it works for the operator and doesn't add complexity. One participant noted that new technology should augment human performance, not replace it.
    • Risks for short lines was noted to be lower. The regulator was encouraged to ensure that even if a technology is deemed good, there is a lower tech option for short lines. Funding programs to help short lines adopt technology would also be welcomed.
  3. Do we have the right mechanisms for collaboration? How can organizations such as the TDC, RRAB, or the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (Colorado, US) can be further leveraged? Is there a need for a formal international organization or 'community of practice' that would allow for reciprocal recognition and adoption of technology or technical standards deployed in other jurisdictions?
    • Some noted a trend in recent years that Transport Canada is doing less engagement and involvement with stakeholders than what was seen in the past. This is a troubling trend with the emergence of new technology. There was a perceived lack of leadership in the department, even if there are pockets of [technology] acceptance.
    • Transport Canada needs to get involved up front in the development of technology, noted one participant. The US provides $35 million in stable funding for technology development at the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI), whose site is owned by the Department of Transportation. The Federal Railroad Association (FRA) is in charge of the contract. There was desire to see this same level of collaboration in Canada.
    • One discussant mentioned that the academic route is not always the starting point of innovation. The technology sector is inventing now – it just needs a path to get these ideas to government. For innovation to be promoted, regulations and processes should encourage companies to come forward. As an example, a tech company developed technology not originally intended for the rail industry, but a rail company saw potential for its use. The [small business] worked directly with the rail company to successfully fast-track modifications to this technology for application in the rail industry, but this process was entirely dependent on a champion within the rail company who saw potential, a forgiving first client willing to take a risk.
    • It was suggested that tech companies may not be familiar with the rail sector and that there should be a process for getting technology incorporated into the industry, with Transport Canada acting as facilitator. The energy sector has a model where all companies put forward funds to a communal technology to develop technology for the benefit of all in the industry. The US has an innovator assistance program that provides opportunities for innovative companies to apply for funding for technology development at the R&D, technology development pilot phases. These were suggested as useful models for industry-government interface.
    • Many felt that other than the US, standards are so different in Canada compared to other jurisdictions due to operations and geography. Australia could have [practices] to share, given they haul freight. The EU focus is on commuter rail, with little operational similarities to Canada's system. The International Rail Safety Council is mainly a forum for discussion as opposed to a body like the International Civil Aviation Organization, which is focused on regulatory development. The TTCI supports research internationally and represents North America in technical rail forums, which were seen to have benefit. It was not clear to participants how more association with international bodies would be helpful in the Canadian context.
    • Some potential was seen for reciprocal approvals processes, if a jurisdiction certifies or endorses technologies, but this would require knowledge of how testing was done. Climate conditions differ significantly in Canada. The regulator was advised not to give up its ability to determine the adequacy of technology.
  4. Are there lessons to be learned the U.S. approach to the development, certification and adoption of new technologies? Are these efforts primarily industry or government driven? What has been the railway industry's experience with respect to the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) technology?
    • Participants noted that the interlinkage of the rail network across CN and CP, and Canada and the US, means that network signaling needs to be in real time. Information arriving at the office has to be the same as what is coming from the field.
    • Many agreed that Canada needs to learn from the US PTC experience. The US context came about as a result of a commuter rail accident in Los Angeles – raising public outrage. This resulted in the US Congress putting the system in place before the technology was properly assessed. It will cost billions for rail companies to implement it, and it is proving difficult to integrate the technology into the system. Rail companies are spending a lot of money in the US for very small gains in safety improvements. PTC is seen as an outlier, with Congress driving the adoption of the technology, not industry.
    • One participant stressed that investing in autonomous inspection would derive more significant safety benefits than PTC.
    • Transport Canada, in this case, is viewed by many as taking a very measured approach on PTC. As the technology evolves, there could be an opportunity to leapfrog the US and implement something that works better. This would make the investment worthwhile, in terms of safety and efficiencies. Any new technology is an investment, and one needs to know what the gains are, and that the actual causes of events are being addressed. Canada is advised not to take the US approach on PTC – and to be sure that the technology will achieve desired results before making significant investments.

2017-2018 Railway Safety Act Review
Fatigue Management and Fitness for Duty Roundtable
October 13, 2017 (1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.), Dartmouth, Nova Scotia


  • Michael Bourque, President and CEO, Railway Association of Canada (RAC)
  • Michael Farkouh, Vice-President, Eastern Region Operations, CN
  • Keith Shearer, GM Regulatory & Operating Practices, CP Rail
  • Marc Beaulieu, Chief Transportation and Safety Officer, VIA Rail
  • Luc Bourdon, Compliance Director, Genesee & Wyoming Inc
  • Don Ashley, National Legislative Director, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference
  • Marc Ross, Legislative and Health and Safety Representative, Local 101r, Unifor
  • Mark Fleming, CN Professor of Safety Culture, Saint Mary's University
  • Kate Bowers, Human and Org Factors Specialist, Audit, Enforcement and Investigation, National Energy Board
  • Andre Bouchard, Director, Human and Organizational Performance Division, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
  • Liam Logan, Inspector, Commission of Railway Regulations (Irish Rail Regulator)
  • Orlando Cordova, General Manager & Chief Operating Officer, Tshiuetin Rail Transportation Inc.
  • Bonnie Rankin, Manager of Legislative & Policy Services, Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, Province of Nova Scotia


  • Shannon Sandford, Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, Transportation and Infrastructure, Government of New Brunswick
  • Michael Gullo, Director, Policy, Economic and Environmental Affairs, Railway Association of Canada (RAC)
  • Mitch Beekman, Vice-President, Safety and Environment, CN
  • Eric Harvey, Senior Counsel, Regulatory Affairs, CN
  • Bruce Snow, National Rail Director, Unifor
  • Chris Garrod, Vice-President, Legislative and Health and Safety, Local 100, Unifor
  • Mark Robinson, Legislative and Health and Safety Representation, Council 4000, Unifor

Summary of Discussion

Disclaimer: This summary is intended to reflect high level perspectives and insights on aspects of Canada's rail safety regime shared by participants to the discussion. Opinions and information raised by individuals over the course of the meeting may not be factually accurate. The statements expressed in this document do not necessarily reflect the views of the Railway Safety Act Review Panel.

Notes on Roundtable Discussion:

The Fatigue Management and Fitness for Duty Roundtable focused on identifying workable options to further reduce risks associated with human factors (fatigue management, distraction, work/rest rules, fitness for duty, training) in the operation of Canada's rail transportation system, and ways to remove barriers to achieving progress.

Highlights of the discussion follow, grouped according to the questions that were shared with participants in advance of the meeting.

Roundtable Discussion Questions

  1. What elements (e.g., hours of service, fatigue, safety culture, training, physical and mental health, and drugs and alcohol impairment) should be included to effectively manage risks associated with the fitness of operational railway employees to properly perform their duties? Should a fitness for duty (FFD) Regime be extended to all operational railway employees or focused only on specific categories?
    • Drugs and alcohol testing is an issue of concern; today testing is for cause only [post-incident, for suspicion of intoxication; and, at random under terms of a return to work contract following an identified and treated addiction]. With the introduction of cannabis, the Panel should reflect on the importance of random testing. There are currently programs in place for testing employees on a voluntary basis upon request. Younger employees today may have different values [with respect to cannabis]. It may be time to look at a random testing program like the one currently in the US. It was noted that many railway employees based in Canada are subject to U.S. regulation on random testing when operating cross-border movements.
    • Some aspects of fitness for duty (FFD) are already incorporated under safety management systems (SMS) for operational employees that are categorized as safety critical. On medical fitness, [the rail industry] has a regime in place for this, as well as a regime to deal with impairment, of prescription/legal drugs. Reaction to cannabis legalization with mandatory testing is pre-emptive, the [railway industry] does not now have a "culture of impairment''. Even if cannabis is legalized, it would still be prohibited under current railway guidelines.
    • Rail employees are a cross-section of the broader society. On post-incident testing, impairments have been found; it is not certain how big an issue this is compared to fatigue. Education of drug/alcohol use is a step, but it only goes so far.
    • Data is needed to determine if random drug testing is effective or useful. As [rail operation] is a safety critical job, some noted that random testing should not be a concern. The rail approach to alcohol should be the model for a regime used for cannabis, where impairment is viewed as a medical issue. Co-workers and supervisors are likely to be the first to know who is doing drugs, they need tools to safely report this, like is done for alcohol use. Cannabis impairment is different than alcohol, as the effects last longer. Once cannabis is legalized, rail workers may not know it remains prohibited for them – education is required.
    • Study is needed on what constitutes impairment for cannabis, as it is not defined. It is not clear for an employee what the limit is (e.g., if cannabis used on Friday, can they report for work on Monday, or call in not fit for duty). In Colorado, once cannabis was legalized, it normalized its use, and is leading to cases of drug-impaired driving. Canada is legalizing it, but does not have the tools to define [impairment] or test for it.
    • Ireland has had random alcohol/drug testing for safety critical rail employees since 2005, using urine and breath samples. Through court jurisprudence, this testing must be done by a medical practitioner (nurse/doctor), which was not the original intent of the legislation that presumed a sports-type testing model. This has created a higher burden for rail companies.
    • The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has been working on fitness for duty regulation for the last 8 yearsFootnote 1. It has evidence-based knowledge on tolerance and toxicity of cannabis and other drugs, following research and case law study, along with views received from stakeholders through its consultation process. This is still a learning process, with safety culture being a key element. Workers and labour groups did not like all of the elements put forward, including random testing for drugs and alcohol. The CNSC initiative is intended to be non-punitive, by bringing in measures such as, Employees Assistance Programs, education and training, as key elements of its programmatic approach to prevention.
    • A CNSC-established human factors group's purpose is to support workers' performance. It worked with industry, unions, and other stakeholders, and looked at what practices worked elsewhere, including the US. If the objective is to catch impairment at work – drug testing is a tool [but it is not clear that testing alone is an effective preventative measure]. If the objective is to deter impairment – that requires education. The CNSC tries to treat both alcohol and drugs the same way. The acceptance of oral swabbing over urine/blood to test for impairment as a legally defensible method of detection is about 2 years away, which will be less intrusive.
    • On the listed elements [in question 1] of fitness for duty, all of these are key. If you need to prioritize, safety culture is #1, as it would solve many of the other problems. Hours of service fall under fatigue, which is an area of work we need to focus on, but a receptive safety culture needs to be in place first.
  2. Should measures and tools such as the Fatigue Management Guidelines or other similar international guidance material be adopted by Canada, and be made mandatory nationally? Should the Railway Safety Act more clearly define the role of other jurisdictions and stakeholders in the rail safety regime with respect to managing fatigue?
    • Individuals are not the best judge in identifying when they are impaired. Fatigue is like driving a car, and pulling out the sparks plugs one at a time. Eventually the car will just shut down. Although a rail employee has the right to refuse work if they feel they are impaired, they can't refuse to work mid-route, when operating a train. You can't fight fatigue – it needs to be managed.
    • Fatigue issues were described as similar to drug impairment, impacting routine, skills-based activities. Fatigue was also noted to be cumulative – with a 17 hour limit being too much, and a need to factor in night shifts versus day shifts, multiple shifts over several weeks, which compound fatigue. Through scheduling and narrowing the window of wakefulness in collaboration with fatigue management expertise, unions and employees at local terminals, efforts are being made by rail companies to limit schedules that cause fatigue. However, it was raised that this is also dependent on the employee's hours of wakefulness before arriving at work. Education is also required.
    • Ireland has regulated hours of work, but rail companies are expected to risk-manage fatigue themselves, and this includes working with medical practitioners.
  3. Are there specific technologies that could be implemented now or should be explored further to assist in mitigating the risks associated with human factors in rail operations? What needs to be done to make such technologies more acceptable?
    • It was noted that as an individual is not the best judge of their own impairment, there is technology available that can assess the wakefulness of an operator in real-time. However, this technology was not seen as a solution to address fatigue, only as a tool to help detect it. Some raised a need to focus on how to prevent the employee from being fatigued at work, instead of monitoring the employee at work. Training was seen by some to be a more effective tool.
    • Some participants indicated that if there is a good safety culture, implementing technology like LVVR could be done as part of a broader system. If there is a lack of trust, an employee may see LVVR technology as being implemented to monitor the worker. In-cab monitoring was seen as having potential to be helpful for fatigue or employee performance management purposes, but a lot would depend on what is done with this information, and labour-employer conversations about how this technology would be used had yet to take place.
    • LVVR implementation, it was felt, could also limit funding available to pursue other technologies, such as positive train control, which could be better at helping with impairment, to help stop a train if fatigue is detected.
    • Others noted that technology is used to assess the condition of the tracks, ties, including ground penetrating radar. Optics could be used to assess the condition of rail cars. For the industry, technology is important. Technology being developed to detect fatigue of an operator will vibrate the seat or an alarm would alert the conductor who can do something about it. There was general agreement that there is no point to technology if it is purely punitive.
    • It was pointed out that there is no way to know what goes on in cabs once they leave the station, making it difficult to assess if a company's training is effective. LVVR could help with quality control. Positive train control is legislated in the US, but it is an unproven technology. It is not likely ready to implement here. Should the focus be targeted more on areas like grade crossings where real benefits could be realized for all?
    • The regulator was encouraged to promote the adoption of technology to fulfill elements of the safety management system (SMS) process.
    • Ireland/western EU has limited scope on the use of cameras due to [individual] protections around this. Rather than implementing technology that monitors behavior, tablets that analyze black box data recordings are feeding information back to the operator for action to be taken. The EU has not seen benefits of video technology over positive train control.
  4. Given the TSB view on a lack of progress on this issue, does the government need to take further action on legislating and/or regulating the oversight and mitigation of the risks and impacts associated with fitness for duty and fatigue management in the rail sector? How broad should a fatigue management and fitness for duty regime be? What do you see as key barriers to progress and how can they be removed?
    • A one-size-fits-all approach, with a rigid rule [mandating] 12, 15 hours of work, was not considered to be helpful by most participants. Rather, it was suggested that a flexible, layered approach, well-informed by science was needed, to allow companies to manage their schedules more broadly. The rail industry has specific issues, 24/7 operations, and agreements about who can work, when. There are many components, so an approach needs to be based on company-specific circumstances, taking local operations into account. This needs to be an ongoing process between rail management and labour that evolves over the years to meet changing conditions.
    • Work-rest rules approved by Transport Canada in 2003 were not viewed by stakeholders as workable, and parties went to court to challenge it. Today, the level of convergence in the rail industry on this issue was seen to be unprecedented. Concern was expressed that imposing a rigid process could stifle that work going on now, and not be accepted by the industry or labour.
    • On the question of potential options to address fatigue management (e.g., government regulation; railways can come up with a better rule than the existing one; or government brings people to the table to get resolution), it was suggested the regulator could consider putting a timeframe on the ongoing work within the railways, after which it would regulate.
    • Post-2007 Rail Safety Act Review, it was recalled that a working group with government, industry, and labour made considerable progress, especially on safety culture, during the 2008‑09 period. In addition, some noted that when the transport of dangerous goods was the focus, government and industry came together on addressing those issues. With respect to fatigue management, there was broad agreement that there is a role for the government to work with rail companies on what the industry is currently developing now.

2017-2018 Railway Safety Act Review
Proximity Roundtable
September 18, 2017 (1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.), Dorval, Quebec


  • Sean Finn, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, CN
  • Keith Shearer, GM Regulatory & Operating Practices, CP Rail
  • Marc Beaulieu, Chief Transportation and Safety Officer, VIA Rail
  • Luc Bourdon, Compliance Director, Genesee & Wyoming Inc.
  • Gérald Gauthier, Vice-President, Railway Association of Canada
  • Don Ashley, National Legislative Director, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference
  • Bruce Snow, National Rail Director, Unifor
  • Cynthia Lulham, Project Manager, FCM/RAC Proximity Initiative
  • Kara Edwards, Director of Transportation, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada
  • Brian L. Mishara, Professor, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)
  • Sarah Mayes, National Director,Operation Lifesaver
  • Henry Wiercinski, Co-chair, Rail Safety First
  • Anie Samson, President of the Public Safety Commission, Montreal City Councillor
  • Daniel Gaudreau, Assistant Deputy Minister, Urbanisme et à l'aménagement du territoire, Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l'Occupation du territoire, Province of Quebec
  • Lise Ferland, Committee Member, Nous et les trains, Table de concertation communautaire de Pointe-Saint-Charles
  • Scott Metallic, Field Monitor, Mi'gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat (MMS)


  • Marc Ross, National Health and Safety Coordinator, Unifor Local 101 – Rail Division
  • Claire Kilgour Hervey, Co-chair, Rail Safety First
  • Louise Bradette, Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), City of Montreal
  • Marie-Pierre Rouette, Conseillère en relations gouvernementales, Bureau des relations gouvernementales et municipales, City of Montreal
  • Peter King, Committee Member, Nous et les trains, Table de concertation communautaire de Pointe-Saint-Charles

Summary of Discussion

Disclaimer: This summary is intended to reflect high level perspectives and insights on aspects of Canada's rail safety regime shared by participants to the discussion. Opinions and information raised by individuals over the course of the meeting may not be factually accurate. The statements expressed in this document do not necessarily reflect the views of the Railway Safety Act Review Panel.

Notes on Roundtable Discussion:

The Proximity Roundtable focused on key challenges associated with the proximity of rail transportation to communities, and identifying outstanding issues or barriers to achieving progress to further reduce risks associated with the interaction of trains, people and the environment.

Highlights of the discussion follow, grouped according to the questions that were shared with participants in advance of the meeting.

Roundtable Discussion Questions

  1. Taking recent changes to the rail safety regime that have not fully matured into account, has the government gone as far as it should in legislating and regulating the oversight and mitigation of the risks and impacts of rail transportation through communities? What more should be done to complement the recent changes?
    • Safety is a shared responsibility. It was also noted that much has been done on proximity issues since the 2007 Railway Safety Act Review (2007 RSA Review), with respect to land use planning of new developments in proximity to railways. The work between the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Railway Association of Canada (RAC) on developing the Proximity GuidelinesFootnote 1 has opened dialogue between communities and railways, and resulted in a greater exchange of information. Some participants noted, however, that work to specifically respond to the 2007 RASR's Recommendation 34Footnote 2 has not advanced.
    • However, there was also consensus that not enough has changed within communities on land use planning and development near railways, which increase pressures for new grade crossings with associated risks, and encourage more trespassing. It was noted that people are being fatally injured at rail crossings and along tracks, and all have a responsibility to respond, this is not just a railway issue.
    • Ontario was noted as the most forward provincial jurisdiction in incorporating railway safety issues into provincial land use planning policy and municipal implementation. Ontario released the updated Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), 2014 which provides policy direction on matters of provincial interest related to land use planning and development. The PPS, 2014 through its transportation and infrastructure policies, requires that land use planning [by municipalities and others] shall be undertaken so that rail facilities and sensitive land uses are appropriately designed, buffered and/or separated from each other to prevent or mitigate adverse effects from odour, noise and other contaminants, minimize risk to public health and safety, and to ensure the long-term viability of rail facilities. The PPS 2014 also requires that when a planning application is made to a municipality for development on lands adjacent to a railway, the railway operation is notified and asked to provide comments.
    • Provincially, Quebec has done work on land planning near railways that can be adopted by communities on an advisory basis – not mandatory.
    • The City of Montreal has incorporated the Proximity Guidelines into its land use planning. The need to find out why provinces and municipalities are not all adopting the Proximity Guidelines was noted.
    • Pressure for intensification developments in Toronto is notable. Trains transporting dangerous goods should slow down until a solution for development is found. Another participant noted that speed restrictions are already in place for trains that handle goods in Census Metropolitan Areas under the (requiring trains to slow to 40 mph)Footnote 3. In addition, slowing trains below the speed the track is designed for can actually increase risk (e.g., through increased wear on the track itself), and result in longer wait times for trains to move through crossings. The Dupont Street Regeneration StudyFootnote 4 in Toronto looked at development south of the rail line and part of the work included noise and vibration studies. Although this study was site specific, the City of Toronto is now suggesting a look at this work in the context of further regeneration projects in the region.
    • Others commented that while adopting the Proximity Guidelines is a good idea for communities, but they do not address existing builds, and ways to deal with communities already living with railway in close proximity. Cities want people to walk more, cycle more. Boroughs in Montreal and elsewhere are often cut in half by rail lines. Consideration needs to be given to pedestrian crossings, including near schools to reduce trespassing, and to actively enforcing train speeds through sensitive areas (e.g., hospitals, daycares, seniors' homes). In addition, rail safety can't be addressed without thinking of spills, noise, vibration, which all have an impact on public health. If communities have issues with rail noise and vibration, these communities also have a rail safety problem. These are not isolated issues.
    • Prevention of urban sprawl creates pressures for intensification. The new federal Grade Crossing Regulations introduced in December 2014Footnote 5 require upgrades to grade crossings, but there is not enough funding for municipalities to implement. If a municipality wants whistle cessation, it can't afford the necessary upgrades.
    • Many participants referred to "AskRail", a smartphone application that provides emergency first responders with critical information about the content of rail cars in case of accidents and which was acknowledged as a significant initiative by the industry.
  2. Should the RSA more clearly define the role of other jurisdictions and stakeholders in the rail safety regime? Should measures and tools such as the Proximity Guidelines or other consultation protocols or land-use appeals mechanisms be made mandatory nationally, or subject to federal/provincial agreements? Given high rate of casualties resulting from grade crossings accidents and trespassing, what role can municipalities play to help address this?
    • The situation described as "dual regulation", where the [Canadian Transportation Agency] has the ability to work with parties to facilitate the construction of new crossings, and [Transport Canada] closes crossings, was found to be inconsistent. Opening a new crossing should not be done in isolation, but examined within the context of all other crossings in the vicinity, and an assessment of how much the crossing is used today and projected to be used in the future. If usage passes a certain traffic threshold, separated crossings (e.g., over and underpasses) should be mandatory. Canada could adopt a policy like other jurisdictions have, where no new grade crossings are opened unless it is demonstrated that no other solution is possible, or that other crossings can be closed as a result of a new one built. Federal funding also needs to be attached to this.
    • A suggestion was made that the Proximity Guidelines should be made mandatory at the federal level, along with pre-notification of affected railways of any land-use plan or zoning amendments, or construction permits within 300 metres of a railway, then trickle down to provinces. Consultation locally [between railways and communities] should also be legislatively mandated, including the need to meet, review and discuss associated costs [of crossing upgrades, grade separations, etc.] to be shared by railways and municipalities. Even though Ontario has adopted notification requirements, railways often only find out about new construction activity when a train operator sees a backhoe next to a rail line. The government's approach to mandating land use restrictions around federal airports was seen as a potential model for a holistic approach to development in proximity to rail corridors.
    • Alternatively, the federal government could incent change with funding. Performance criterion related to rail safety, such as adoption of Proximity Guidelines, or other similar initiatives, could be imposed on federal funding for crossings to encourage communities to opt in to [rail safety] improvements.
    • Mitigating measures for constructors were raised as a need. Municipalities are not specialists on railway operations, and do not always know which products move on which rail lines. Perhaps levies should be required for separated rail crossings from new home builders in Greenfield developments (e.g., Barrhaven suburb in Ottawa), like is done now for future community schools and parks.
  3. Identify key outstanding gaps or issues that need to be addressed to further reduce risks associated with the interaction of trains, people and the environment (e.g., air quality, railway track siding fires, spills, etc.), and barriers to achieving progress. Are there particular social, economic, geographic, jurisdictional or other factors that add complexities that the system needs to manage?
    • Technical issues on rail safety such as fencing, or rail safety legislation were not seen to address social causes or implications of rail incidents, such as lives lost, rail workers on stress leave. Every crossing incident or suicide has a significant, long-term impacts for train operators and crews. Municipalities were seen as only take note when an incident happens; they should consider prevention measures, particularly for suicides. These actions could save lives and reduce costs over the longer term.
    • Research has been done on [trespassing and crossing] accidents along rail lines. Most accidents caused involved youth, elderly or people under the influence of drugs, alcohol – i.e. all had weakened capacities. A stronger look should be taken at signals and warning bells at crossings. A number of trespassing deaths were due to suicides, particularly along railway lines near psychiatric institutions. Training of staff at these facilities on the potential for suicide by train was suggested, and fencing or other obstacles installed along tracks close to these facilities.
    • Metrolinx has installed suicide prevention signage along its network (given that many people attempting suicide change their minds), but suicide crisis support is not available in all jurisdictions. It was noted that the Public Health Agency of Canada has started a pilot for a national suicide hotline that is anticipated to be implemented across Canada next year. More data should be collected on demographic factors of people involved in rail crossing and trespassing accidents, including identifying incidents potentially due to suicide.
    • Every year, dozens of whistle cessation requests go to Transport Canada. The department should take those opportunities to educate communities on safe crossings. Continued dialogue is necessary between railways, communities and government. Operation LifesaverFootnote 6 and Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response initiative (TRANSCAER®)Footnote 7 were suggested as models that work.
    • Canada needs an inventory of railway crossings and how they are equipped like the US Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)Footnote 8. This tool can help do a better job with managing risks of interactions between railways and people, and show for example, blocked crossings, other crossings nearby, and could help identify priority crossings that require investment. A publicly accessible database of where crossing incidents occur could help identify problem areas where derailments occur to prevent accidents from happening again, particularly as not all incidents are subject to Transportation Safety Board (TSB) investigation. A database that maps crossings could also be used to identify other problems, such as frequency of suicides. A comment noted that the Railway Association of Canada is developing a similar interface for the Canadian railway network that it plans to expand upon in a similar manner to that of the FRAFootnote 9.
    • It is important to encourage dialogue, exchanging information on the transport of dangerous goods, and working with first responders on how to respond to an incident. What is missing is information on the state of rail infrastructure for municipalities and first responders. Some standards for the exchange of this type of information should be set for all railways in Canada. Many municipalities want mechanisms to ensure that information is shared in real time, especially in terms of what travels on cars, and when and where. Others indicated that adequate historical data (i.e., 6 months prior) provided to municipalities by railways now is sufficient.
  4. Given the TSB view on a lack of progress on this issue, does the government need to take further action on legislating and/or regulating the oversight and mitigation of the risks and impacts associated with fitness for duty and fatigue management in the rail sector? How broad should a fatigue management and fitness for duty regime be? What do you see as key barriers to progress and how can they be removed?
    • A one-size-fits-all approach, with a rigid rule [mandating] 12, 15 hours of work, was not considered to be helpful by most participants. Rather, it was suggested that a flexible, layered approach, well-informed by science was needed, to allow companies to manage their schedules more broadly. The rail industry has specific issues, 24/7 operations, and agreements about who can work, when. There are many components, so an approach needs to be based on company-specific circumstances, taking local operations into account. This needs to be an ongoing process between rail management and labour that evolves over the years to meet changing conditions.
    • Work-rest rules approved by Transport Canada in 2003 were not viewed by stakeholders as workable, and parties went to court to challenge it. Today, the level of convergence in the rail industry on this issue was seen to be unprecedented. Concern was expressed that imposing a rigid process could stifle that work going on now, and not be accepted by the industry or labour.
    • On the question of potential options to address fatigue management (e.g., government regulation; railways can come up with a better rule than the existing one; or government brings people to the table to get resolution), it was suggested the regulator could consider putting a timeframe on the ongoing work within the railways, after which it would regulate.
    • Post-2007 Rail Safety Act Review, it was recalled that a working group with government, industry, and labour made considerable progress, especially on safety culture, during the 2008‑09 period. In addition, some noted that when the transport of dangerous goods was the focus, government and industry came together on addressing those issues. With respect to fatigue management, there was broad agreement that there is a role for the government to work with rail companies on what the industry is currently developing now.

2017-2018 Railway Safety Act Review
on SMS and Rules Roundtable
November 8, 2017 (1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.), Toronto, Ontario


  • Mitch Beekman, Vice President, Safety and Environment, CN
  • Keith Shearer, GM Regulatory & Operating Practices, CP Rail
  • Marc Beaulieu, Chief Transportation and Safety Officer, Via Rail
  • Tanis Peterson, Director, Operations and Regulatory Affairs, Railway Association of Canada
  • Melanie Morris, Manager, System Safety, Metrolinx
  • Steve Gallagher, Director, Corporate Safety, CANDO Rail
  • Luc Bourdon, Compliance Director, Genesee & Wyoming Inc.
  • Don Ashley, National Legislative Director, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference
  • Ken Cameron, Health and Safety Coordinator VIA Rail, Unifor
  • Mark Winfield, Professor, Co-Chair, Sustainable Energy Initiative (SEI) & MES/JD Coordinator York University
  • Bruce Campbell, former Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Claire Kilgour Hervey, Co-chair, Rail Safety First


  • James Schwichtenberg, Director - Safety and Regulatory, CN
  • Eric Harvey, Senior Counsel, Regulatory Affairs, CN
  • Bruce Snow, Unifor National Rail Director, Unifor
  • Mark Ross, Health and Safety Coordinator, Unifor Local 101
  • Mark Robinson, Regional Representative - Local 4003, Ontario, Unifor
  • Chris Garod, Legislative coordinator, Health & Safety, Unifor local 100 – Rail Division
  • Lorie Threader, Manager Operating Practices, Metrolinx
  • ​Henry Wiercinski, Co-chair, Rail Safety First

Summary of Discussion

Disclaimer: This summary is intended to reflect high level perspectives and insights on aspects of Canada's rail safety regime shared by participants to the discussion. Opinions and information raised by individuals over the course of the meeting may not be factually accurate. The statements expressed in this document do not necessarily reflect the views of the Railway Safety Act Review Panel.

Notes on Roundtable Discussion:

The SMS and Rules Roundtable focused on the effectiveness of the safety management systems (SMS) and Rules-making processes, the roles and responsibilities of all interested parties in the development of SMS and Rules, and supporting regulatory frameworks or policies, tools or measures that may be required. In addition discussion focused on ways that the SMS could evolve to more a results-based system, on its own and as one component of a broader, effective safety regime.

Highlights of the discussion follow, grouped according to the questions that were shared with participants in advance of the meeting.

Roundtable Discussion Questions SMS

  1. What is the appropriate balance between the above three key elements of a sound regulatory system (i.e., compliance and enforcement, SMS, and safety culture)? And what role should railways, interested parties, and Transport Canada play under each of its components?
    • Some noted that balance means things are even – and it was felt that the system was not there now. SMS was seen to be at the right level of activity, with focus on compliance and enforcement needing to increase, and safety culture needing to increase even more. A comment noted that the most critical change between the original Rail SMS Regulations and the 2015 SMS Regulations was to introduce more checks and balances to ensure that safety management systems were being implemented in a manner that requires ongoing identification of safety concerns and implementation of remedial actions by railway companies. SMS began as an administrative exercise, a good tool, but a supporting safety culture needs to be in place. All three parties, government, employers and labour were seen as having a role to play in safety culture.
    • Communities, it was noted, feel a credibility and confidence gap on how safe the system is, especially post-Lac-Mégantic, which is seen as an extreme example of a disconnect between SMS and actual operations. A citizen does not fully understand the idea of safety being run by the railways, where it appears that the public interest is not the priority. Each railway has its own systems and thresholds for safety, for example, on wheel impact systems, where Transport Canada is silent. The US has a different system as well. It was pointed out by others that rail companies have different standards in cases where they are going beyond required minimum standards.
    • A participant indicated that the Auditor General and other oversight bodies have questioned the level of effort Transport Canada is putting into SMS, versus areas of enforcement and compliance. Transport Canada is seen as putting lots of resources into overseeing SMS, at a time when resources have been reduced for regulatory oversight, rail safety and the transportation of dangerous goods over successive governments. Another participant countered that in fact, both the Auditor General and the Transportation Safety Board have said the opposite – that Transport Canada has conducted many inspections, but did not exercise enough oversight of railways' safety management systems.
    • In the regulatory regime, a participant noted that there may be different pathways to get to safety culture – the issue is how to prompt operators to establish reflexive internal management systems around health, safety and environment. Firms should be developing SMS, the same way they are putting environmental management systems in place on their own, on a voluntary basis. A participant noted the model of environment management systems, where a statutory duty of care was established on the part of company officers and directors, something that is absent under the Railway Safety Act. This has resulted in the establishment of environmental management systems by companies themselves, without the direct requirement or oversight of the regulator. Rather, regulatory resources are targeted to direct regulation (standards, inspection, compliance), with a focus of regulatory resources on outcomes and company behaviour in the field. The proposed role of the regulator with respect to SMS was seen to be the ability and will of auditors and inspectors to enforce regulatory compliance.
    • Others stressed that the perception that because a railway has an SMS it isn't being regulated is false. Prior to SMS, inspections found infractions, these were fixed, and the inspector went away. Now, SMS adds to enforcement, as companies and regulators need to understand how the system allowed that infraction to happen. In addition, it was noted that advancements on safety culture are being made across railways, and as it grows, SMS becomes a better tool. As SMS and safety culture is established it will compliment compliance monitoring and enforcement activities.
    • Companies are able to set their own SMS, based on their own operational context. However, many felt that regulating safety culture is likely going too far. This raised questions around how the government could regulate non-compliance on safety culture, and what that would that look like? Rather, it was felt that Transport Canada should focus more on looking more broadly at whether companies are actively engaging their employees on safety culture.
  2. How should SMS be implemented more effectively, to move it from what is sometimes considered as a compliance, process-based system to a risk-based, results oriented system? How is the effectiveness of an SMS measured by the railways/unions/regulator/public?
    • Transport Canada was seen by a discussant as struggling with the ability to look at safety through different lenses, for example, there is currently a labour code perspective, and a safe operations perspective. The regulator was viewed as needing to look at both aspects together. Transport Canada and the Canada Labour Program Memorandum of Understanding was seen as separating labour issues from safety issues. Rather, it was suggested, the Labour Program could take back responsibility for the Canada Labour Code, which would add a level of oversight and bring different perspectives to the rail industry. Diversity is important. Employers lead, employees follow, but labour and public voices should be heard and factored into the process.
    • One participant expressed the view the SMS compliance process was adequate with Transport Canada auditing one railway company for numerous weeks in 2017, confirming the effectiveness of the current process.
    • On transparency, it was noted that an SMS is a company-confidential document. Companies do risk assessments and triage costs, including for safety-related improvements based on their internal risk assessments. One discussant questioned whether a company make determinations of risk on the basis of a cost-benefit between economics and safety, and if Transport Canada evaluates evidence behind a company's risk assessments? From a public perspective, more information on Transport Canada's assessment process, including parameters by which they evaluate company risk assessments would be welcome, given the public does not have access to this information.
    • Rail companies noted that risk assessments need to be done within a company, without any incumbents. If a company makes its risk assessments public, it could expose them to liability and the process would lose its efficacy. The public should only be permitted to see risk and prioritization information if a company would not be legally challenged on this information. Transport Canada, it was noted, does audit a company's risk assessments, and the quality of these assessments in a fairly robust way.
    • Others indicated that for railways to have this information under lock and key is not in the public interest. There would be some assurance in the public's knowing that risk assessment information is being shared with the right people, including in municipalities. Risk assessments should involve anyone who could be impacted by a scenario or risk. This would help municipalities, first responders, and rail companies to be aware of what is coming through their systems and work together to reduce the risks. Confidentiality, it was offered, could be maintained through the risk assessment process.
    • Another discussant raised that government has an obligation to do its own risk assessments and case scenarios. It was suggested that Transport Canada should be doing global risk assessments internally, given what is being transported now, and on measures to counteract and mitigate these risks. As an example, it was not apparent to a discussant that Transport Canada did this on the increase of oil-by-rail. In contrast, in the US, analysis has been done of the risks and assessments of worst-case scenarios of pipeline ruptures and leaks, with this information made available publically.
  3. Are there any issues with the requirements of the SMS Regulations themselves? If so, what could be improved?
    • The umbrella of SMS was seen by many participants as good, but with work needed on balance between elements. As an example, it was noted that recent non-compliances issued by Transport Canada were irrelevant to the operations of a particular railway. There needs to be better alignment between elements such as SMS, fatigue management systems, so a company does not need to jump from one to another. A participant noted that there seems to be differing interpretations of SMS across operations – a rail interpretation, Transport Canada's interpretation, and individual inspector interpretations. Discussants saw a need for consistency on what SMS compliance looks like. SMS is a learning curve, and many felt that it was difficult to get direction/answers from the regulator. Leading and lagging indicators were welcomed as useful and to add clarity to the process for all – regulators and railways. Transport Canada needs to ensure that its auditors are appropriately trained to ensure consistency in interpreting the SMS Regulations across the country.
    • SMS is a management activity. Safety culture is company-driven, and has to be developed within a company with its workers. Some noted that today, SMS is developed for Class 1 railways, and may not be the right tool for short lines. Significant changes to SMS were seen over the past 2 years, including become more detailed, with an imbalance in regulating SMS, and a move to more of an administrative exercise instead of getting a company where it needs to be on safety. Short line operators find SMS is a good tool, but there is not enough support. A need was seen for more resources from Transport Canada to help a company develop an SMS, including clear guidelines, matched with short line needs, internal capacity, and operations.
    • Jurisdictional issues were also highlighted by short lines, and the fact that they are regulated to have an SMS when they operate 200 feet onto federal track – an "inside/outside the fence" situation. A federal SMS is needed for operations outside the fence, with a provincial SMS for operations within the fence. A call was made for more consistency between provincial and federal SMS processes, by having common minimum requirements.
    • It was also noted that on risk assessments, the employer is required to consult with the bargaining agent, but the employer can pick whoever they want to consult. The 2007 RSAR was silent on a terms of reference (ToR) for safety policy committees that include participation by labour. It was proposed that safety policy committees be mandated, with ToR that reflect the need and role for a safety policy committee on SMS and safety, and training on the risk assessment process be provided to participants, as is done in the mining industry.
  4. How is safety culture being addressed within rail companies and the rail industry? Is there a role for the regulator in promoting and/or monitoring the health of safety culture within organizations?
    • A comment was made that government should strengthen whistle-blower protections, within the Railway Safety Act itself. It was noted by others that whistle-blower protection is in SMS, and people are encouraged to come forward to companies with issues and concerns. Some railway companies have formalized process and hotlines for reporting safety concerns. Employees can also go to unions and Transport Canada if they are not comfortable reporting to the employer. Regulations are in place to prohibit punishment for reporting safety concerns.
    • Some indicated that while whistle-blowing [protection] is in SMS, it is also part of safety culture. People need to feel confident in bringing issues forward. A regulator can ensure companies are doing something around safety culture. Transport Canada should have its own indicators and metrics to assess safety culture, and monitor these safety culture indicators within companies. An example was raised that in the environment area, a statutory duty of care was introduced for companies. This was seen as another way to draw management attention to safety issues and strengthen safety culture.
    • RAC has spent time and resources to develop a safety culture assessment tool (2016) and started piloting it. Transport Canada was involved in the development of this tool – it came out of the last RSAR Review. Most railways are looking at this tool to better understand safety culture and how to get there. Rail companies are working internally to build safety culture to better deliver their SMS. This requires buy-in from everyone in an organization to implement. It was pointed out that there are many different ways to improve safety culture and apply safety culture science, but uncertainty around how one could measure it. RAC's work is seen as a great start, but more could be done with funding. In the US, the American Association of Shortline Railroads receive government funding to work on safety culture tools.
    • A final point was offered that SMS addresses systemic issues, safety culture goes beyond to work on episodic issues. SMS can't be legislated, as it is not a metric that one can dictate in legislation. It requires ongoing work within an organization. Safety culture is a journey, and needs to be at the centre of everything. Transport Canada could help leverage best practices and share this across the country, as currently, it is seen as being too focussed on regulatory issues. On the point of profit versus safety, a railway operator noted that safety is how rail companies run their businesses. There will always be pressures, but at the core, safety is the #1 priority.


  1. What is the appropriate balance between ensuring an adequate level of consultation under the rules process to ensure the development of an effective rule, without negatively impacting the nimbleness and flexibility of the process?
  2. Has the "Guideline on Submitting a Proposed Rule" been effective in providing more clarity around when a rule is appropriate over a regulation? On the expected consultation process? If no, what could be improved?
  3. What additional changes do you suggest be made to improve the process?
    • Some participants noted that the current system works. Subject-matter experts are consulted during the development of rules, including the regulator. Adding additional consultations to the process would add time. It was noted that the Railway Association of Canada (RAC) gets frequent calls from the US on how to put a rules process in place. In addition, it doesn't take three years to implement a rule, which can get safety issues addressed quickly, in consultation with industry on technical, operational issues. Some agreed that the speed of the process can't be lost.
    • It was also suggested that unions should be able to submit rules to level the playing field. Rule changes are not reviewed by the Advisory Council on Railway Safety (ACRS), which could have a role in this process. An employer is responsible to consult internal workplace health and safety policy committees under occupational health and safety provisions flowing from Part II of the Canada Labour Code, which raised a question on why rules could not be reviewed through a policy committee process as well.
    • Others raised that all other regulatory processes have a level of public consultation, and rules of [industry] application could still have an element of risk that should be considered more broadly. As rules-making is still a process that results in legally-binding requirements, it was felt by some that rules should go through the Canada Gazette process. Making rules that have legal effect were seen as needing public comment. What people observe can raise issues not seen by others (e.g., important input can come from many sources: labour, retired industry employees, technical experts, academics, members of the public, etc.) – there is value-added. Given issues around risk, there was a call for a basic level of transparency in the process.
    • While it was acknowledged that speed [in the process] is a factor, there was caution raised that this could end up with rules that are not enforceable, such as the tank car standards under the Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes that the Transportation Safety Board said were not enforceable from an engineering standpoint. Another participant offered that on the matter of Key Trains/Key Routes, a technical committee was put in place by the regulator to research proper thresholds. That work is not finished as of yet. The Rules process allowed for a measure to be put in place quickly in the interim, to add a level of safety to the best knowledge available at the time.

2017-2018 Railway Safety Act Review
Infrastructure (safety, priorities-setting, funding) Roundtable
October 20, 2017 (1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.), Vancouver, British-Columbia


  • Janet Drysdale, Vice-President Corporate Development and Sustainability, CN
  • Keith Shearer, GM Regulatory & Operating Practices, CP Rail
  • Michael Bourque, President & CEO, Railway Association of Canada (RAC)
  • Perry Pellerin, President, Western Canadian Short Line Railway Association, and CEO Great Sandhills Railway
  • Lee Jebb, Vice President, CANDO Rail Services
  • Luc Bourdon, Compliance Director, Genesee & Wyoming Inc.
  • Oksana Exell, President & CEO, WESTAC
  • Peter Xotta, Vice-President, Planning and Operations, Port of Vancouver
  • Bruce Hayne, Councillor, Surrey BC
  • Winston Chou, Manager, Traffic & Data Management Branch, Engineering Department, City of Vancouver
  • Dr. Anthony Perl, Professor of Urban Studies and Political Science, Simon Fraser University
  • Lisa Tuningley, President, T-Rail Products


  • Eric Harvey, Senior Counsel, Regulatory Affairs, CN
  • Don Ashley, National Legislative Director, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference

Summary of Discussion

Disclaimer: This summary is intended to reflect high level perspectives and insights on aspects of Canada's rail safety regime shared by participants to the discussion. Opinions and information raised by individuals over the course of the meeting may not be factually accurate. The statements expressed in this document do not necessarily reflect the views of the Railway Safety Act Review Panel.

Notes on Roundtable Discussion:

The Infrastructure Roundtable focused on key challenges associated with undertaking railway safety-related infrastructure improvements, and identifying ways that programming, funding and other mechanisms, such as collaboration and data, could be better leveraged to target priority needs to improve the safety of Canada's rail transportation system.

Highlights of the discussion follow, grouped according to the questions that were shared with participants in advance of the meeting.

Roundtable Discussion Questions

  1. In your view, how effective are existing federal funding programs at addressing railway safety-related infrastructure improvements? Are there areas of rail safety that are not currently covered by federal funding programs?
    • There was broad agreement that the greatest potential for improving rail safety is to focus on grade crossing and proximity issues, where the greatest number of fatalities occur. The $55 million allocated for crossings in the Rail Safety Improvement Program (RSIP)Footnote 1, and the deployment of funds was noted to be far short of what was needed, particularly with a deadline of November 2021 for all railways and road authorities to achieve compliance with new crossing and sightlines requirements. One crossing alone in Vancouver cost $20 million. Whistles at crossings [and associated costs to improve infrastructure to allow for their cessation] was also raised.
    • One participant commented that for Canadians, the priority is safety at this crossing, and it would be helpful to share a database on crossings and their risks with communities. In addition, funding should be based on priority of crossings most at risk, based on target and timing parameters for upgrading crossings nationally. If a set timeframe is not met [by railways, municipalities], there should be consequences, such as the government moving to engage a contractor to upgrade the crossing.
    • The fact that Canadian Transportation Agency has the ability to work with parties to facilitate the construction of new crossings, while Transport Canada has a program that promotes their closure, was not viewed as efficient. In addition, a simple change was proposed to examine requests for new grade crossings by conducting a full safety assessment that also considers the context of all other crossings in the area, rather than to look at each new request in isolation. Railways also mentioned that they should be notified if the regulator is coming to inspect a crossing area for an opening/closing, as they may have differing perspectives to add. It was suggested that the government could consider closing 10 to 12 percent of crossings as a whole, particularly as reducing crossings increases safety and the capacity of roads, by stopping the interaction between cars and trains.
    • Regarding federal grants/contributions, municipalities were noted as having to do capital planning a few years out with no sense of whether federal support will ultimately be provided for projects. Municipalities were "left scrambling" to make applications for RSIP funding, with unrealistic timelines, and left to come up with funds if federal support does not come through. There was a call for better clarity and transparency on federal projects to be funded under the RSIP program, within sufficient time to allow municipalities to plan forward projects and priorities.
    • Short lines were positioned as in a different situation from Class 1s, with 99 per cent of their infrastructure needs being track-related. Funding applications and programs do not allow short lines to advance projects without municipal sponsors, yet it is proving difficult to advance short line interests within broader municipal, provincial and federal priorities. Short lines have worked with municipalities to put projects forward, but got nowhere in the selection process. Funding was even turned down for LED lights. A short line carve out under the grade crossings program could help, as it is difficult to meet required volumes now.
    • Consideration could also be given to support for short lines to access technology (e.g., track-wheel monitors), and training facilities on new technologies and approaches to safety, and for the provision of training for first responders, as short lines often deal with volunteer firefighters. A "Class 2" fund would be welcomed.
    • A comment was made that Canada needs to be positioned to ensure it does not miss out on the next generation of problems 10 years out that will change the system in terms of technology advances. Caution was raised around putting a system in place today that does not consider infrastructure implications of new technology. A system that is smarter needs less car/bus/rail separation. It would be a shame to spend a lot of money for infrastructure today that is not necessary for future realities of the system. A point was also made that while looking at future trends needs to be incorporated into system planning, the government may not have the necessary capacity/expertise to do this now.
    • Others noted that some realities will not change, people will still be frustrated with blocked crossings in the future due to increased trade volumes (e.g., the bumper grain crop a few years back meant more and longer trains). Grade separations will still be needed in some areas, even if hyper loop infrastructure/pipelines may be developed on top of today's system. As such, proximity and land use planning were still seen as the biggest [rail safety] issues nationally today.
    • It was noted that significant investment was made in the engineering work that went in to the Proximity GuidelinesFootnote 2, but take up [by provinces, municipalities] is slow. It was suggested that federal government regulate automatic setbacks for development and ensure notification of rail companies, if the provinces themselves do not adopt the Proximity Guidelines. However, others pointed out that the Proximity Guidelines do not work for already built-up areas, and municipalities often have difficulties working with rail companies, making it hard to advance development.
    • It was agreed that technology issues are real, and can be factored in, but this also speaks to how the government prioritizes crossing upgrades. It was also stressed that risk management needs to be added to the prioritization and selection of high risk crossings for improvement. In a busy corridor the risk profile will be higher that a private crossing on farmland (e.g., realities in Northern Saskatchewan are not the same as in the BC Lower Mainland). Federal programs were seen to be diverting funds that could be spent on priority risk areas – upgrades need to be tiered. Participants indicated that Transport Canada has existing crossings dataFootnote 3 that is accurate, and questioned how this information is leveraged by the Department to identify risk.
  2. Given competing demands for limited resources, how can government best engage with partners and stakeholders to develop a national, system-based perspective of rail safety-related infrastructure priorities? How could safety imperatives be better incentivized or incorporated into funding programs aimed at infrastructure improvements?
    • It was noted that there was a need for a structured approach to apply for funds, similar to a coordinated, merit-based Gateway approach. The complexity in [British Columbia's] Lower Mainland is mirrored by complexity in funding approaches. In addition, there was a call for gathering data in a formal, sustained structure to get a rigorous case for funding from a safety perspective. Australia launched a consultation program for the supply chain as part of its infrastructure program. Vancouver is the only place where consultation is taking place with suppliers. This broadened consultation is seen to get buy-in [from more partners] for projects. It was noted that discussion on the importance of supply chains was not seen under the new trade infrastructure program. Others also indicated that there was a complete absence of safety components/considerations in the assessment of applications for funding across various federal infrastructure funding programs.
    • It was countered that a model where all stakeholders work together collaboratively to decide what should be done is good – when it works – the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor project is a great example. For Roberts Bank, municipalities were onboard, and this significantly accelerated the process, and increased available funding with their participation. Today, municipalities are opposed to more rail and increased trade. They see congestion and carloads of coal that they don't want moving through their communities. They own the land and don't want the responsibility of ongoing maintenance of this new infrastructure. A convergence of interests is needed, along with some form of dispute resolution process if not all parties are in agreement. Ports/railways need to show that they are not asking municipalities to contribute significantly, maybe 5 percent of a project.
    • On the issue of incentivizing safety, research indicates that the more safety technology is installed, the more people take more risks as they feel technology compensates for this risky behavior. There is a balance between what technology does coupled with how people respond to technology and incentives.
    • Quebec's carbon tax program that redistributes taxes received to projects that further reduce environmental emissions/improve sustainability, is a model that some felt should be looked at, including for the way it puts different lenses on infrastructure investment programs to achieve multiple purposes. For example, this program has funded projects that reduce GHGs by moving freight from truck to rail for the last mile. This has had great success where and when these funds are deployed.
    • Tax credits were suggested as an efficient model, as it would let railways and municipalities self-select the most important places to put improvements, as they know their own systems. Government doesn't like to hear "self-select", as they lose control on where funding is spent, but companies/municipalities know their own priorities best and will direct funding where it makes sense. Others noted that tax incentives are great – if a business/community has the funds to invest in the first place.
    • Training offered by short line rail companies to municipalities on how tank cars work was not always taken up. This was an expressed concern, suggesting that people seem unaware that things still move by rail. Questions were raised around what is being done to inform the public on the importance of rail. As well, $55 million [in RSIP funding] was again raised as so little funding, when public education and awareness, and training of communities on rail issues is needed, including on dangers of being near tracks.
    • Others agreed that incentives are on one side, education on the other. BC had identified the top 10 most dangerous crossings in the Province, but as a [municipal committee] it was limited to working with communities to put up better signage. In addition, municipalities have to continually be convinced to contribute to public education campaigns for the annual Rail Safety Week. Funding is needed to support public education, on an ongoing basis.
    • There was broad agreement that the general public does not have an appreciation for the role rail plays in enabling the economy. Class 1s should be more active in getting the message out. US companies do a better job of this, through ad campaigns. People don't connect that the furniture in their living room came by rail. Railways are, and still will be important [for Canada] to be more productive (e.g., even oil won't be going through pipelines anytime soon). There was recognition that there is a disproportionate focus on rail problems over its benefits by Canadians.
  3. How do railways approach the identification and prioritization of rail-related infrastructure improvements? Are there existing forums for collaboration that could be leveraged to identify rail safety-related infrastructure priorities that are common to a number of rail and/or other intermodal transportation stakeholders? Is a new model required?
    • A point was made that it is difficult to try to define a "safety" improvement, as just about everything railways invest in – from infrastructure, and technology, to training – all have safety benefits. Safety is at the core of what railways do, as it is in their interests to be safe. Incidents are costly, to infrastructure, to the movement of goods, and to the railway industry's reputation.
    • A Class 1 railway invests over $2 billion per year of its revenue in its infrastructure and equipment (far more than do other modes such as trucking and marine), with 60 percent of that to maintain the current system, and other priorities on top of this, like new technologies. Funds are also targeted for growth and capacity. The industry is asset-intensive, but these assets last a long time (10-30 years). Railways are always trying to be right about where to spend their dollars, taking a data-driven approach, with tools and technology to assess the quality of their infrastructure. Data informs on the basic condition of rail infrastructure, and on what improvements are needed, when, across the system.
    • Short lines take this same approach, influenced by customer and mainline needs. However, increases in insurance costs and premiums and costs of regulatory compliance are penalizing short lines. It may not cost more for Class 1 railways to comply with new regulations on balance, but short lines' costs were not seen to be considered in the regulatory cost-benefit analysis process. If compliance costs are likely to be higher for smaller operations, it was suggested that short lines should be compensated in some way.
    • A need was also raised to ensure costs of regulation and compliance, including increased insurance premiums, do not result in unintended consequences of modal shift. Freight is moving from rail to truck due to increased costs being passed on to railway consumers. Trucks are speeding past trains that travel at 10 mph (to be safer), and the trucking industry doesn't have to pay added costs that rail does for safety compliance. It was speculated that in Vancouver, if short lines were not there, this could put 500 to 600 more trucks on the road every day. It was noted that from a [systems-perspective], nothing works better than having a short line passing freight to main lines to get to the coast.
    • Short lines are "behind the 8-ball" to get their track infrastructure up to a level where they can maintain or increase their speeds and attract new customers to make the revenues needed to be self-sufficient. Tax incentives, such as those provided to short line railroads in the US, were proposed as a model that could be implemented to assist with capital investments in track infrastructure. Permitting short lines to direct where infrastructure funds are spent was seen by some as having potential to also benefit Class 1 railways that depend on freight coming into their networks from branch line traffic.
  4. What kind of information and data on transportation is needed to provide a good evidence base to allow for analysis to inform priority investments in railway safety-related infrastructure? Given that much rail data is proprietary, how should this information be collected and shared among public, academic and private sector partners and stakeholders?
    • A participant noted that we need open data in Canada. The most innovative sectors in the world benefit from open data. Who shares data first is a policy challenge where government needs to lead, rather than a private corporation. More public benefits come from more open data on transportation.
    • It was noted that a high percentage of global booking for customers is still done manually, contributing to a disproportionate absence of visible transportation data. Federal leadership is an opportunity, like the regional modelling that was done under the Asia Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative, where rail companies were very cooperative on sharing data. This needs federal leadership and strong parameters around data and how it is used. A large number of people are using the same existing data sets, but coming to remarkably different conclusions. Today there is a tendency to look at trade corridors from an efficiency and fluidity perspective - safety considerations need to be layered on top of this. This would also help in working with municipalities.
    • One caution noted was the need to be specific about what data is needed, and what data is commercially sensitive, such as data on supply chain visibility. Railways noted that they share significantly large amounts of data with Transport Canada, and with provinces. There is no central way to share this data. Why should a railway company have to provide some data in response to every federal, provincial, or municipal request? Railways have no concerns with providing safety-related data to Transport Canada. The issue is how to turn this data into something actionable, using data analytics. There is a need to build models to better understand underlying causes of issues.
    • Support was expressed for Transport Canada acting as a central repository for data, as opposed to the Transportation Safety Board (TSB), which was seen as tending to use data to its own ends. As an example, it was noted that the TSB removed grade crossings from its Watch List, which the data does not support.
    • It was suggested that more information on safety-related data be shared with municipalities and the public, e.g., on the state of track infrastructure, to help first responders and feed into longer term municipal planning. Railways indicated considerable safety-related information is publically available, and noted the need to carefully consider what ends would be served when determining what additional information is to be shared more broadly.

Regional Roundtable Summary

Summary of Discussion

Disclaimer: This summary is intended to reflect high level perspectives and insights on aspects of Canada’s rail safety regime shared by participants to the discussion. Opinions and information raised by individuals over the course of the meeting may not be factually accurate. The statements expressed in this document do not necessarily reflect the views of the Railway Safety Act Review Panel.

Notes on Regional Roundtable Discussions:

The Regional Roundtables sought perspectives from local and regional participants on the degree to which the overall structure and governance of the rail safety and security regime is meeting its core objective of ensuring that the rail transportation system is safe, secure, and working in the best interest of all people in Canada. This includes ensuring that the Act and its supporting regulatory framework is appropriately and effectively applied in urban and rural/remote areas, and in moving both freight and passengers across Canada.

Five Regional Roundtables were held, as follows:

  • September 18, 2017, Montreal (Dorval), Quebec
  • October 13, 2017, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
  • October 20, 2017, Vancouver, British Columbia
  • November 1, 2017, Calgary, Alberta
  • November 8, 2017, Toronto, Ontario

A number of common themes and issues were raised across all five Regional Roundtables, most notably with respect to issues flowing from the proximity of rail operations to communities. Highlights of participant comments follow below, grouped according to the four specific questions that were posed, with points that raised regional distinctions highlighted.

Roundtable Discussion Questions

  1. Are there particular social, economic, geographic, jurisdictional or other factors that add complexities to ensuring rail safety within this region that may not impact the same way in other areas in Canada? What do you see as the top rail safety issues that need to be further addressed?

    • Proximity issues flowing from increased interaction between people and trains was consistently raised across Roundtables as the most pressing rail safety concern, given 85 percent of all rail fatalities and serious injuries were due to grade crossing accidents or trespassing on rail property. These deaths and injuries were seen to be highly preventable by many participants.

    • Participants noted that the Lac-Mégantic tragedy has become a regional and national symbol for rail risks. The human and social costs associated with this kind of incident cannot be underestimated, compared to the costs of making infrastructure investments in advance, to ensure accidents don’t happen in the first place. Participants stressed the need to ensure that the Lac-Mégantic experience cannot happen in any other community in Canada.

    • Geographical realities for urban centres was raised by participants including intense pressure for densification due to increased population growth, and to prevent urban sprawl (Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal). These pressures result in the rehabilitation of industrial land for residential use (Toronto), and a lack of available land for 30 metre setbacks from rail lines (downtown Calgary) or the construction of separated rail crossings (Vancouver, Montreal). Urban centres are actively promoting cycling and pedestrian activity, but in many cases, neighborhoods are cut in half by rail lines with little to no pedestrian or bike path crossings.

    • In addition, concerns were noted over the expansion of light rail transit, given differing standards for tracks, signals and crossings for provincially-regulated light passenger operations and intersections of these local and regional transit systems with slower, heavier, federally-regulated freight rail operations.

    • While some noted that the availability of land in rural areas may allow for the moving of rail operations outside communities, cost permitting (Saskatchewan, Atlantic Canada), others countered that this was not an option everywhere, as this would move the same proximity issues to other growing communities. In addition, some participants indicated that products need to move into urban centres to access ports and supply cities. Transferring the movement of dangerous goods to trucks was not seen as a preferable alternative, particularly as it would take many more trucks to transport these volatile products on roads throughout cities, adding to congestion and spreading associated risks on routes throughout the community, rather than limiting them to an existing rail corridor.

    • In rural areas, such as northern Saskatchewan, short line operators questioned the requirement to upgrade all grade crossings to new standards, when risks at these crossings (particularly crossings on private farm land) are much lower than other more populated areas. Available funding for these upgrades was seen to be inadequate, and diverting funds of smaller rail companies that could be better spent on track upgrades. Coastal erosion was noted as a factor in Atlantic Canada, particularly where the rail line acts as a dyke protecting Highway #1. Rural municipalities noted a lack of internal expertise in land use planning near rail operations.

    • It was also pointed out that following the Lac-Mégantic accident, speed limits for trains transporting dangerous goods were adopted in urban areas with a population greater than 50,000. It was suggested that these slower speed limits also be implemented in smaller municipalities. A participant noted in response that in some cases, tracks were not designed for lower speeds, and slower trains result in crossings being blocked for longer. It was further offered that reducing the length of trains to shorten the time a train blocks a crossing could result in an increase in accidents, given that grade crossing collisions typically happen when a trains enter an intersection. Shorter trains would mean more trains, with more opportunities for train-vehicle interactions.

    • Municipalities noted they are limited in what they can do to respond to complaints from residents living in proximity to rail operations about noise, vibration and blocked crossings. It was stressed that there is limited federal funding available to complete the required grade crossing upgrades to allow for safe whistle cessation. Some noted that noise and vibration issues should be considered safety issues, given that this impacts public health.

    • It was strongly suggested by some that if communities are concerned about rail noise or vibrations issues, they also have a rail safety problem. A solution offered was for all provinces to adopt the “Proximity Guidelines for New Development in Proximity to Railway Operations” (Proximity Guidelines)Footnote 1 into their land use planning regimes for safety reasons. Provinces could then require municipalities to adopt the Proximity Guidelines. The federal government, it was noted, could consider tying rail safety funding to the Proximity Guidelines, by making it a requirement that communities seeking funding for rail safety improvements must agree to incorporate the Proximity Guidelines or equivalent mechanism in their land use planning processes.

    • Other participants noted that use of the Proximity Guidelines should remain flexible, as they do not necessarily apply in all situations, such as: existing developments; mitigating risks due to toxic releases or spills (rather than crashes); and rural areas, given the lower risks posed by rail branch lines travelling at slower speeds in less populated areas. For example, it was noted that in downtown Calgary, city engineers are looking at vertical rather than horizontal separation of high rise buildings within 30 metres of a rail line. This type of work needs to be informed by a better risk assessment process – the Proximity Guidelines should look to inform on what factors and considerations should go into a proper risk assessment.


    What are your views on the current level of collaboration and coordination between Transport Canada, other federal departments and agencies, railroads, provinces, municipalities and other stakeholders to keep the railway transportation system safe and secure? How well are the current processes working? What could be improved? Are legislative, regulatory or other mechanisms needed to more formally establish roles, responsibilities, and notification requirements among all parties involved in, or impacting rail safety?

    • A number of Roundtable participants noted that the economic strength of their communities is connected to Class 1 railways. However, participating municipalities and community groups were clear that rail companies could do much better at sharing information on what products they are transporting, the rail companies’ risk assessments of their own operations, and the state of rail infrastructure within particular communities. Some discussants indicated that this information would help municipalities and first responders in their emergency planning and infrastructure priorities-setting.

    • It was noted that the implementation of Protective Direction 36Footnote 2 following Lac-Mégantic has resulted in greater information-sharing by rail companies on the transport of dangerous goods, and many felt that this measure should be made permanent through regulation. It was raised by some that the information municipalities get currently is six months old, where municipalities and first responders should be aware of what type and quantity of dangerous goods are moving through their jurisdictions in real time.

    • Rail industry participants agreed that first responders need to know what products are being transported and how to deal with it in an emergency, but cautioned that broadly distributing real-time information on what is travelling where could become a security risk. Some participants noted that there are tools in place now that provide first responders with information during emergencies, including the AskRailFootnote 3 mobile application, developed collaboratively by the North American rail industry, that provides qualified First Responders with immediate information during emergencies, including materials and quantities being transported by specific rail cars. In addition, information on how to manage the materials in rail cars is provided via Transport Canada’s Canadian Transport Emergency Centre (i.e., CANUTECFootnote 4).

    • Some discussants noted that railways used to have their own emergency response teams, but that much of this work is now contracted out to private companies that were seen by some as lacking the diligence and/or proper training to deal with specific types of incidents. Some participants suggested that Canada consider establishing standard rail incident response teams to coordinate responses to incidents, as is done in the US. A derailment in Edmonton was noted as a recent example where the respective roles of emergency responders was not clear, given that the adjacent community was not informed of an evacuation order. Smaller incidents between trains and vehicles were also cited as problematic, as it has sometimes proved difficult to contact an out-of-province rail company regarding an incident.

    • There were a few areas identified where participants felt that obligations, jurisdiction and roles of actors within the rail safety regime could be further clarified within the Railway Safety Act. One example put forward was the need to include a statutory requirement for a railway company to notify provincial authorities before undertaking work on or near provincial pipelines, and for railways to gain agreement of a provincial pipeline authority on the appropriate level of safety of proposed work around a pipeline. It was noted that under the current regime, provincial pipeline regulators do not have the same authority to oversee work conducted near pipelines on federally-regulated railway rights-of-way that the National Energy Board has over federal pipelines.

    • Urban transit authorities (UTAs) pointed out that commuter rail networks can transport up to 75,000 passengers per day. Given that the new rail safety definitions for federally-regulated rail carriers now apply to local railways that operate on federally-regulated tracks, the UTAs indicated a need to clarify areas of competence between federal and provincial regulators over commuter rail. As well, some suggested a need for federal regulators to consider the different operating realities between commuter rail and freight operations when developing regulatory requirements.

    • Some participants noted a need to clarify the jurisdiction of railway police employed by Class 1 rail companies. It was noted that there is a public perception issue, as railway police are often seen to be working in the interests of the rail company, rather than in the public interest. Railway police representatives provided examples of how they work with local police and first responders on: educating and addressing rail safety risks; and training for and coordinating the management of railway incidents. There was concern that provincial courts have questioned the jurisdiction of railway police beyond the limits of railway rights of way, in legal matters dealing with rail safety issues. It was suggested that these issues could be addressed if all railway police were brought under an agency under direct federal jurisdiction, with its powers over rail safety clarified in legislation, similar to the governance of Canada’s border services officers, or the British model for its railway police force.

    • A significant number of participants across the Roundtables shared examples where there was a notable increase in collaboration among stakeholders, including: emergency response planning and First Responder training; between communities and railways through the development and awareness of the Proximity Guidelines; and rail safety public education efforts through cooperative efforts of communities, governments, and industry through Operation Lifesaver Canada. However, many discussants were of the view that there was a lack of alignment or connection between these efforts. It was suggested that engagement often happens “after the fact”. There was broad agreement across Roundtables that meetings of all groups with a role/stake in rail safety should be convened on a regular basis (i.e., annually), to promote collaboration, consistency and to promote information sharing and cooperation.

    • Municipal and provincial participants suggested that the Act could be strengthened by clarifying the roles of each of the jurisdictions in areas such as, enforcement of blocked crossings, and who is responsible for what in responding to emergencies.

    • Road authorities were noted by some as having have a key role in rail safety. They could, for example, educate truckers and the public on crossing safety, and install better signage and lights activation around railway crossings on highways, or other roads found to have a high proportion of accidents.

    • It was noted that land developers always look for the easiest way to provide access to new greenfield developments, leading to the creation of numerous grade crossings, which then create whistle (noise) and vibration problems. Railways indicated that every new grade crossing installed on a line adds safety risks, as this increases the interaction between trains and people. Some participants suggested a role for road authorities in examining how existing crossings are used, and assessing potential impacts of future development in the area on traffic patterns, before a new grade crossing is opened. Currently, it was related, a request for a new grade crossing tends to be looked at in isolation.

    • Many participants agreed that provinces have a role in working with municipalities to provide direction and guidance on better land use planning related to development along rail corridors. In addition, some participants suggested that the federal government could move to protect rail corridors by implementing a requirement for land authorities to notify rail companies of new development along railways, as it has done for land around federal airports. However, some participants stated that it would be preferable for all provinces to adopt the Proximity Guidelines.

    • Significant concerns were raised by participants across Roundtables on the need for more transparency and publicly available rail information–from both railway companies and Transport Canada–to help reassure the public that the regulator is doing its job in enforcing compliance. As an example, it was noted that in Lac-Mégantic, there is a good level of collaboration now between the railway company, the municipality and Transport Canada, but the general town population is not aware of these good relations, or work being done to improve rail safety. It was suggested that Transport Canada share the results of inspections with the population, including what is safe, unsafe, and areas where companies were found to have issues. One participant noted that in an environment of no information-sharing, it is legitimate for the population not to blindly trust that the system is safe in the absence of data and evidence.


    Recognizing that some recent changes to the rail safety regime have yet to be fully implemented, what more can be done to reduce the impacts of rail operations on local communities? How could communities and industry be better supported in actively working together to reduce trespassing and railway crossing accidents?

    • A consistent concern expressed across all Roundtables was the lack of an integrated management system to strategically identify priority grade crossings for improvement across the rail transportation system, based on a better understanding of risks. Some participants noted that the opening of new grade crossings should be considered in the context of all crossings in a particular area, and as a last resort, in concert with closing of other crossings in the area to offset the new one. One discussant noted that the federal government developed new grade crossing regulations without a clear understanding of how road authorities work, as some are provincially or locally regulated. It was suggested by some participants that provinces should have a greater role in the federal rail safety policy and regulatory development process, given that it has local impacts.

    • Inadequate funding allocated to grade crossing improvements and closures was a common issue raised across Roundtables, with current programming seen as significantly less than what was required, even if only priority crossings were targeted. Examples cited included: the complexities of factoring in grade crossing closures/separations in Calgary’s inner city as part of its proposed Green Line transit system; a potential $300 million for a grade crossing closure in Calgary’s inner city; an estimated of $400 million for crossing improvements in the Barrhaven neighbourhood; two grade separations recently undertaken in Winnipeg, cost hundreds of millions. In Vancouver and Montreal, there is an identified need for new/upgraded grade crossings to facilitate connectivity for cars, pedestrians and cyclists, and reduce rail vibration and whistles in dense urban boroughs.

    • The cost of compliance to new crossing requirements for short line operators was noted as being disproportionality burdensome than for Class 1 railways, and not based on risk. This was seen to be taking away funding required by these smaller operations for needed infrastructure upgrades and investment in technology. Compliance with updated regulations for sightlines, other requirements (e.g., safety glass) were seen to be out of scale for an operation crossing main line track once per day. It was suggested that regulatory compliance costs for short line operators be better considered in the regulatory cost benefit analysis process. Others noted that support should also increase for measures related to weed control and contamination along rail lines.

    • On costs for liability insurance for short lines, it was noted that smaller operations are over-insured for the speed of their operations and the potential risk they pose. There was concern raised over a gap in the federal liability and compensation regime, as it only applies to crude oil travelling on federally-regulated track. It was noted that many short lines have stopped carrying crude oil due to the high cost of obtaining private insurance coverage, which has resulted in a shift to moving crude oil by a larger number of trucks on roads through communities, seen as a higher risk activity. It was also pointed out that only crude oil is covered under the federal regime, when there are more volatile products carried through the system, which some felt should also be covered under an expanded liability program. In addition, it was noted that more could be done to educate the originators [i.e., chemical/industrial companies that actually own, maintain and ensure the proper loading of rail tank cars] and first responders on the handling of these dangerous goods.

    • Some participants noted that municipalities do not have the funds, or a clear understanding of risks to respond to costly options proposed by railway companies to address crossing improvements, closures and safety measures required to permit whistle cessation at crossings. Others indicated that there is often a perception that crossing closures proposed by railways are a business decision, rather than a safety issue. More than one municipality noted a lack of participation by railways in municipal-commissioned feasibility studies for rail infrastructure options. Other factors were also noted to be out of a municipality’s control, such as the speed of trains travelling through communities, and the enforcement of overly long blockages of grade crossings by trains.

    • It was raised that railways and the federal government have a wealth of experience when dealing with negotiations and mediation processes related to railway operations, with individual municipalities dealing with their respective issues being at a disadvantage. As such, federal leadership was proposed to help inform and navigate discussions between municipalities and railway companies on railway infrastructure improvements, and to help unblock the process. A role was seen for the federal government to ensure that every stakeholder gets heard, and that a settlement works for all parties. One participant suggested that an obligation for railways to work with communities and defined roles for railways and communities should be incorporated into the Railway Safety Act.

    • Municipalities were also seen to require a better understanding of risks, particularly given the trend to longer, heavier and in some cases, faster trains. One participant noted a need for the government to develop indicators, tools, or guidelines for municipalities to aid road and rail authorities in the decision-making process when considering grade crossing improvements, closures, or a need for grade separations. Such tools could better inform all parties on ensuring that infrastructure improvements will accommodate future train and traffic volume growth at public rail crossings, and enhance public safety.

    • Rail safety was stressed by participants to be not just a “railway problem”, given the human impact of rail accidents and suicides on families, and rail workers involved. Participants expressed a need to broaden the scope of measures to reduce grade crossings/trespassing accidents to include a focus on social issues, including homelessness, drug use and mental health. One participant noted that following a study of 66 rail-related deaths, 43 were determined to be likely attributable to suicide. This is an issue for transit (one urban transit company was noted to have approximately one suicide per month) and freight operations, and it was suggested that it would be helpful to share best practices nationally.

    • Better data gathering on crossing and trespassing incidents that include demographics, including attributing suicide as a potential cause, was also called for, to help inform analysis of areas and demographic groups at greater risk. As examples, incorporating information on rail crossings in provincial driver education/licensing exams was suggested as a way to help target young people (a group with higher rates of crossing incidents), and suicide prevention signage could be placed in areas shown to have higher rates of suicide.

    • Public education on the risks and safe crossing of railway tracks was seen to be key. While Operation Lifesaver Canada was seen as effective in this regard, it was noted that schools have to opt in for rail safety programs and presentations, which they may not have time for, given heavy, mandated school curriculums. Some participants suggested that provinces may have a role to play in including rail safety education in the education curriculum, particularly for those schools located near railway rights of way. It was also noted that Operation Lifesaver programming could be expanded to various social media platforms, to reach a younger, broader audience, though this would require additional funding.

  4. What important emerging technologies and innovations would have the most impact in improving Canada’s rail safety regime? Is Canada’s rail safety regime sufficiently flexible and efficient to take advantage of new innovations? Are there models or best practices from other sectors or international experiences that could inform a collaborative government-industry approach to the research, development and adoption of innovative technologies?

    • Technologies associated with improving safety at grade crossings were consistently identified as having the most likely impact in improving rail safety. It was noted that the current focus was on improvements to the use of whistles, lights and gates technologies, with ongoing research being conducted by industry on other newer technologies.

    • Some participants noted that cameras should be considered to identify or verify problem crossing areas. As well, drones (an emerging technology being testing for rail use in the US) were seen to be potentially useful in identifying and alerting train operators of trespassing. Innovative approaches, such as the use of suicide prevention signage around high risk areas (as is done by Metrolinx in Ontario) were also suggested.

    • The advent of smart cars, autonomous vehicles and positive train control were also seen as a potential opportunities that the government should explore. Many participants noted that the inclusion of grade crossings should be incorporated into vehicle and smart phone applications (for cyclists/pedestrians) to increase their awareness. It was noted that British Columbia is looking at applications that could inform drivers of oncoming trains at junctions, to allow them time to choose alternate routes (like is done currently at bridges over the St. Lawrence Seaway to alert drivers of oncoming marine traffic).

    • Vehicle alert systems were supported by rail industry participants, as it was noted that the potential use of positive train control would not allow heavy trains to stop faster. There was caution expressed that there is a learning curve for users when introducing new technologies (e.g., alerting people to oncoming trains might result in some drivers speeding up to get through the crossing in advance).

    • It was noted that the Railway Safety Act should specifically incorporate elements of technology development and adoption. This needs to be accompanied by processes, including through SMS, to monitor and evaluate the implementation of technology, using benchmarks and indicators to determine that technology is working as intended. Some participants noted that technology for light rail transit is evolving quickly in other jurisdictions, such as the EU, and this requires some flexibility in the rail safety regime to allow for, and accelerate, its adoption.

    • Transport Canada was encouraged to look at innovative technologies being deployed in international jurisdictions, including Federal Railroad Association crash technologies employing controlled compression of cars, and stronger frames for tank cars being looked at in the EU.

    • Testing and training on new technologies was seen to be important. There was concern that Canada should be doing more in this regard. First responders are undertaking training at the Transportation Technology Centre Inc. testing site in Pueblo, Colorado in the US, but participants felt Canada should consider a similar type institution, particularly given differing climate conditions. The Canadian Rail Research Laboratory (CaRRL) at the University of Alberta was noted as useful model for public-private partnership in the testing of technology in the Canadian context.

    • Short line rail operations were noted as playing catch up on the adoption of safety-related technologies, given their priority for track upgrades. It was suggested that training on the use of new technologies should be accredited nationally, and made accessible to all (e.g., training manuals that can be utilized within companies).

Consultation guidance document

View the consultation guidance document (PDF, 324.8 Kb).


As part of the Railway Safety Act Review, we invited interested parties to submit information and advice on key issues. Read the submissions.

Research summaries

Research reports were commissioned to assist the Review Panel in their mandate. Read the research summaries.

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