Terms of reference: Railway Safety Act Review 2017–18

Read the terms of reference for the Railway Safety Act Review 2017–18.

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Following the tragic railway accident in Lac-Mégantic, Québec on July 6, 2013, the Government of Canada embarked on a series of immediate actions to further strengthen the federal regimes for rail safety and for the transportation of dangerous goods by rail. This included the issuing of Emergency Directives to immediately address initial safety risks stemming from the accident, as well as the accelerated development of a series of new rules and regulations, and legislative amendments to the Railway Safety Act, to address subsequent recommendations and lessons learned from that tragic event.

Today, four years later, strengthened rail safety continues to be a priority for Canadians beyond direct links with the Lac-Mégantic accident, with heightened interest in the interface between municipalities and the railways, the increasing volumes and demands of the rail transportation network, and the often rapid pace of innovation and technological change. A strengthened regime also continues to be a priority for the Government of Canada as outlined in the mandate letter of the Minister of Transport which directs, as a top priority, to, "propose measures to reinforce railway safety." As the Railway Safety Act is the primary legislation for the safety of the railway transportation network, the review of its authorities, governance, and operation will help address not only issues raised by Canadians, but by rail stakeholders themselves, to further strengthen rail safety in Canada.


The mandate of this Review stems from section 51 of the Railway Safety Act which requires the Minister of Transport to appoint one or more persons to carry out a comprehensive review of the operations of the Act no later than five years after that section came into force, which would be May 1, 2018. As part of Transportation 2030 – A Strategic Plan for the Future of Transportation in Canada, however, the Minister of Transport has accelerated the launch of the Review to April 1, 2017 to evaluate more promptly the current state of rail safety in Canada.

The Review of the Act will include the entirety of its existing provisions, as well as the suitability, sufficiency, and efficacy of the regulatory framework and programs that exist under its authority, and the degree to which the Act meets its core objective of ensuring rail safety, in the best interests of Canada and Canadians.

The Review process

A Review Panel consisting of one chair and two panel members will be appointed by the Minister of Transport and will conduct an independent study and analysis, undertake consultations, and prepare a report with findings and recommendations to be submitted to the Minister of Transport on or before May 1, 2018.

The Panel, supported by a secretariat staff, will consult a wide range of stakeholders, including the public, railway companies and their industry associations, railway company employees and their unions, railway customers (e.g., travellers and shippers), provinces and territories, municipalities, aboriginal and environmental groups, as well as Transport Canada and other federal government departments and agencies.

These consultations will occur across Canada, to ensure individuals and groups can present their views, as well as on-line, in order to accommodate input from all interested parties regardless of location. To assist those who wish to make a submission, the Panel will prepare a Guidance Document setting out key issues of interest and make it available online and in both official languages.

Scope of the Review

The final report from the Panel will include findings and any recommendations to improve railway safety, drawn from the information collected through review of the existing regulatory framework and programs as well as through consultations. The recommendations may include possible amendments to the Railway Safety Act.

In conducting its review and analysis, the Panel will assess the suitability, sufficiency, and efficacy of the Railway Safety Act and its framework of Rules, regulations and programs. Specifically, the Panel will look at lessons learned from implementing comprehensive amendments that came into force in May 2013 and in June 2015, as well as the authorities and operation of the Act which were highlighted in the wake of the tragic Lac-Mégantic accident. Among other things, the Panel will be asked to consider the following specific issues:

  • Whether adjustments to oversight authorities are needed to continue to achieve the high standards for safe rail transportation;
  • Whether regulatory authorities can better address emerging risks, changes in technology and innovation;
  • Whether the delivery of regulatory and oversight regimes could be made more efficient;
  • How collaboration between companies and communities respecting railway safety can be supported;
  • Whether current funding mechanisms are sufficient to support safety enhancements to the rail transportation system; and,
  • Whether the current security authorities in the Railway Safety Act are sufficient to address concerns and emerging issues related to the security of the rail transportation system.

Panel roles and responsibilities

The Review will be conducted at arm's length from the Government of Canada. The Review Panel will be headed by a Chair, who will have sole responsibility and discretion with respect to the Report's contents, including its findings and recommendations. Two Vice-Chairs will support the Chair in leading the review, and will ensure a broad range of expertise is available in conducting the review.

Secretariat roles and responsibilities

The Review Panel will be supported by a dedicated Secretariat assigned to support the Panel in planning, executing, and reporting on the review. The Secretariat will consist of nine full-time employees.

The Secretariat will provide support to the Panel in conducting the review, including providing advice to the Chair and other panel members on key issues as required.

Under the Panel's guidance, the Secretariat will develop and manage the overall project work plan to ensure all timelines are met and products are delivered to complete the review.

This work will include, among other duties:

  • outlining all departments, provincial and territorial governments, rail companies as well as other agencies and stakeholders that secretariat will work with to address horizontal issues;
  • developing, for the Panel's approval, a plan for analyzing key subjects and emerging trends in the rail industry, including challenges or obstacles;
  • assisting in the planning and implementation of in-person and on-line consultations and engagement with Canadians, rail safety stakeholders, provinces and territories and Indigenous groups;
  • managing communications associated with the Review;
  • identifying potential operational priorities that should be examined in the short, medium and long-term;
  • identifying potential vulnerabilities, threats and risks in complex rail transportation environments;
  • reviewing and analyzing stakeholder submissions from in-person and on-line consultations;
  • assisting in formulating recommendations as part of a final report to the Minster for his reference; and finally,
  • supporting and addressing any follow-up that may arise immediately after the submission and public publication of the final report.

Key deliverable and timeline

The Panel will be appointed in May 2017 and will be required to submit one final report, which will be submitted to the Minister of Transport on or before May 1, 2018.

Official languages

The final report and any other documents produced by the Panel for public dissemination will be produced and made publicly available in English and French.


All information gathered by the Panel in the course of its work is subject to the provisions of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

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