Transport Canada's response to the 2017-2018 Railway Safety Act review report

On May 31, 2018, the Minister of Transport tabled the final report of the 2017-18 Railway Safety Act Review Panel in the House of Commons. Transport Canada accepts the Review findings and has a plan to respond to all 16 report recommendations.

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Strengthening rail safety continues to be a top priority for Canadians. This is why the Minister of Transport accelerated the statutory review of Canada's Railway Safety Act to begin in April 2017, rather than in May of 2018, to evaluate the current state of rail safety in Canada. The Minister received the final Report from the Railway Safety Act Review (RSAR) Panel, "Enhancing Rail Safety in Canada: Working Together for Safer Communities", on April 30, 2018, and tabled it in Parliament on May 31, 2018.

Mandate and Scope of the Railway Safety Act Review

The Minister of Transport tasked an independent Review Panel to assess the suitability, adequacy and effectiveness of:

  • the Railway Safety Act and its existing provisions
  • the regulatory framework and programs under its authority
  • the degree to which the Act meets its core objective of ensuring rail safety, in the best interests of Canada and Canadians

The Review also took care to consider the present state of Canada's rail safety regime, as well as its future challenges. It reflected on the ways in which persistent and emerging trends are likely to affect rail transportation in the coming decades.

Highlights of Review Findings:

The Railway Safety Act (RSA) is sound, and Canada's rail transportation system is getting safer:

  • As a result of the many legislative and regulatory changes that have occurred since the last review and the derailment at Lac Mégantic, Transport Canada's rail safety oversight regime now more thoroughly meets its ongoing compliance monitoring and enforcement functions
  • The accident rate per billion gross ton miles is trending downwards, as are the number of main track and non-main track accidents (collisions and derailments)
  • Fewer accidents are caused by track and equipment failures

However, according to the Review, the current rail safety regime is not ready to address the following long-standing issues, along with evolving challenges and opportunities for safety in the near future:

  • The proportion of accidents caused by human factors/actions is increasing, especially in non-main track scenarios.
  • Grade crossing and trespassing accidents still cause the most deaths and serious injuries in Canada (759 deaths and 494 serious injuries since 2007).
  • Compliance with existing regulatory requirements will not be enough to adapt and adjust to the rapid pace of change in areas such as technology, business practices, urbanization, community involvement and human factors.

The Report provides a total of 16 recommendations to address long-standing, difficult-to-resolve issues that would yield significant safety gains, and to position Canada's rail safety regime to meet the challenges of the next decade.

The Report concludes with an overarching recommendation (Recommendation 16) that calls for a transformation of Transport Canada's role and approach to rail safety.

  • This transformation involves moving beyond Transport Canada's current strengths in regulation, inspection and enforcement to also focus on human and organizational performance issues, and more strategic leadership on persistent rail safety issues involving many stakeholders.

Summary of Recent Rail Safety Measures

Following the rail derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Québec on July 6, 2013, the Government of Canada began a series of immediate and longer-term actions to further strengthen the federal regimes for rail safety and for the transportation of dangerous goods by rail. Under the pillars of prevention, effective response and accountability, these safety actions include:

  • strengthened requirements for the securement of unattended railway equipment
  • speed restrictions for trains carrying dangerous goods
  • regulations prescribing fines for contraventions to the Railway Safety Act
  • improved tank car standard for flammable liquids
  • information sharing requirements for railway operators with communities
  • improved regulations regarding a company's safety management systems new liability and compensation requirements for railway operators

For example, Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes was enacted in February 2016, to further strengthen rail safety by reducing the risks and consequences of rail accidents involving dangerous goods. In addition to imposing speed limitations, the rule emphasizes track maintenance, risk assessments and mitigation. The rule also provides a process for railway companies to incorporate input from municipalities and other levels of local government when they create key route risk assessments.

To help municipalities with emergency planning and risk assessment, and to help train first responders, Transport Canada issued Protective Direction 36 on April 28, 2016, which:

  • gives municipalities and first responders access to comprehensive information about dangerous goods moving through their communities by rail
  • gives jurisdictions dangerous goods information they can make publically available
  • requires Canadian Class 1 railways, such as Canadian Pacific and Canadian National, to publish on their website a top 10 list of dangerous goods transported in each province and territory in which they operate

Transport Canada has also taken targeted actions (Protective Direction 38; Protective Direction 39) to accelerate the phase-out of the least crash-resistant tank cars from crude oil transportation. We did this specifically to anticipate the increased movement of crude oil by rail.

A comprehensive list of measures to enhance railway safety and the safe transportation of dangerous goods is available on Transport Canada's website.

In Budget 2016, the Government of Canada invested more than $143 million over three years for railway safety and the safe transportation of dangerous goods to:

  • sustain existing efforts
  • support new expanded activities to strengthen oversight and enforcement
  • enhance prevention and response capabilities

This investment included $55 million over three years in federal funding through the apply for funding under the Rail Safety Improvement Program (RSIP). The RSIP is a comprehensive approach to improve rail safety and reduce injuries and fatalities related to rail transportation. Under this program, Transport Canada provides funding to support grade crossing closures, safety improvements on rail property and along rail lines, the use of innovative technologies, outreach, promotional awareness and education activities, research and studies to improve safety.

The department continuously examines avenues to further enhance the safety of Canada's railways. In May 2018, the Transportation Modernization Act received Royal Assent. This legislation amends the Railway Safety Act to mandate the installation of locomotive voice and video recorders. The department is now working on regulations to implement this technology. These recorders will allow us to better understand events leading up to an accident, as well as help prevent future accidents.

Transport Canada recognizes that fatigue must be addressed in all modes of transportation and is committed to doing all it can to protect the safety of Canadians. On December 20, 2018, the department issued a Ministerial Order under the authority of the Railway Safety Act instructing railway companies to revise the Work/Rest Rules for Railway Operating Employees, to reflect the latest fatigue science and fatigue management practices. This initiative will help mitigate future fatigue-related incidents and is based on the latest scientific understanding of fatigue principles.

Many of these recent measures to improve rail safety are still being implemented, with their full effects yet to be fully realized. Our work to deliver on these priorities will continue.

Today, strengthened rail safety continues to be a priority for Canadians beyond direct links with the Lac-Mégantic accident. As noted in the Review Report, there is heightened interest in the relationship between communities and the railways, the increasing volumes and demands of the rail transportation network, and the often rapid pace of innovation and technological change.

The Railway Safety Act Review Report recognizes these recent efforts taken to strengthen the rail safety regime. The findings in the Report provide a path forward to build on this work. The recommendations outline the next steps needed to modernize the rail safety framework to better respond to persistent rail safety challenges and the rapidly evolving demands of the sector. As well, the recommendations provide a roadmap to help us equip our workforce with the competencies and tools needed to meet and adapt to the challenges of the next decade.

In the sections that follow, we will detail how we are responding to the Report and next steps we will take to implement its 16 recommendations.

The Railway Safety Act Review Report: A Path Forward

The Report notes that a number of the "persistent" rail safety concerns it identifies are a shared responsibility, particularly those related to land use planning, grade crossings and trespassing. Moving forward, Transport Canada will need to bring a broader range of partners together to find ways we can reduce the high rate of deaths and injuries at grade crossings and along railway rights-of-way.

Our response to some of the Report's recommendations will include actions under broader department-wide priorities, such as Transportation 2030, a strategic, long-term vision for a safer, greener and more efficient transportation system for Canadians. We have also begun to modernize our department's legislative, regulatory and oversight regimes, work that strongly aligns with the Report's call for a transformation in our role and approach to rail safety oversight (Recommendation 16).

Canadians clearly want to be more engaged in matters related to the safe movement of trains through their communities. Going forward, we will be more open and transparent about the work we are doing to maintain a safe rail transportation system in Canada. That is why we made "Rebuilding Public Trust" its own priority action area in Transport Canada's response to the Report.

In order to more effectively respond to these critical rail safety issues, we have organized our response to the Report's recommendations under six priority action areas for change, as follows:


Text description

Figure 1 is a graphic entitled "Six Priority Action Area for Change". The graphic identifies the six priority areas for change, which are: Safety Culture & More Effective Risk-based Oversight; Rebuilding Public Trust; Leveraging Technology & Innovation; Improving Rail Safety Governance; Mitigating Crossings & Trespassing Issues; and Addressing Human Factor Risks. The graphic shows that each of these areas for change are connected, and that all of the themes are underscored by the summary Recommendation 16, which calls for a transformation in Transport Canada’s rail safety role and approach.

Transport Canada's approach to each of the Report recommendations is detailed below under the six themes.

Theme 1: Safety culture and more effective risk-based oversight

Related Recommendations:

Recommendation 1 – To strengthen SMS to ensure a greater focus on effectiveness and safety outcomes, it is recommended that:

  1. Transport Canada continue initiatives to train and build internal capacity to audit and assess the effectiveness of a railway company's SMS, in addition to ensuring that the SMS meets the requirements of the regulations.
  2. SMS audit reports identify weaknesses and strengths of railway company safety management systems and provide direction for improvements, as well as best practices for continuous learning. Results of audits should help companies identify areas for improvement that allow them to address the root causes of safety issues, rather than simply fixing technical non-compliances with the SMS Regulations.
  3. Transport Canada transition from "system-in-place" audits to an integrated approach that focuses on key risk areas (e.g., signals, yards, bridges) and combines the expertise of specialized inspectors with trained railway systems auditors. This will improve the integration of a systems-based approach with the expertise of inspectors, which can help link processes and systems to safety results.

Recommendation 10 - It is recommended that the Railway Safety Act be amended to allow local railway companies to request exemptions from elements of the SMS regulations where SMS requirements would have limited safety benefits for their operations. The exemptions should be risk-based, time-limited and require local railway companies to notify the Minister if there are any changes to the operations or class of goods being carried by a company with an existing exemption.

Transport Canada's Response:

Agree: Work on strengthening rail safety management systems (SMS) is well underway, with the ongoing implementation of the Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015 (SMS Regulations). The SMS Regulations provide clear expectations and requirements, and have an expanded scope that includes local railwaysFootnote 1 operating on main and non-main federal track. In 2014 and 2016, Transport Canada put in place additional resources to further implement these new requirements and increase its internal capacity for conducting audits of railway companies.

Transport Canada has committed to improving how we monitor industry compliance with the SMS Regulations by doing comprehensive audits of railways under its jurisdiction on a 3- to 5-year cycle, or more frequently if needed. Our selection of railways to audit is informed by risk. Since the revised SMS Regulations came into force in 2015, we have completed close to 60 SMS audits, covering more than 80 per cent of railways that fall under the regulations.

In an effort to promote safety culture and compliance, we also held joint workshops with industry to promote continuous learning of SMS and share best practices. The most recent workshop was held on October 17, 2018. It brought together regulated companies and a number of Transport Canada staff to have an open and meaningful dialogue on SMS. These workshops will continue on an annual basis.

Agree in principle - With respect to Recommendation 10, Transport Canada does not support providing exemptions to the Safety Management System Regulations, 2015, to provincial railways operating on federal track (i.e., local railways). These regulations are already scaled based on the size of companies. However, we are aware that small federal railway companies may be subject to more SMS requirements than their similarly sized local railways. The department is committed to addressing this situation as soon as the legislation is re-opened.

Next steps:

  • Complete comprehensive audits of all rail companies to ensure compliance with the updated SMS Regulations, 2015
    • Only 5 railway companies have not been comprehensively audited and are scheduled for audit in 2019-20. This means that all companies will have been audited over a 4-year cycle, one year earlier than originally planned
  • Assess, through targeted audits, the effectiveness of SMS a company's SMS in managing safety
  • Strengthen SMS further by establishing that a positive safety culture is critical for an effective SMS (see Recommendation 2)


Transport Canada will continue its risk-based approach to planning for SMS audits and inspections and is committed to continuous improvement of SMS implementation, while maintaining the Government's commitment to complete comprehensive compliance audits of all rail companies' SMS by March 31, 2020.

Recommendation 2 - Recognizing that safety culture is a key component of a safe rail system and that safety culture improvements must be driven by railway companies with active promotion and support by Transport Canada, it is recommended that:

  • Railway companies develop and formally adopt safety culture policy directions and plans, including an approach to safety culture assessments, improvements and information sharing.
  • Transport Canada develop a safety culture policy statement that provides clear support for the fundamentals of safety culture as part of the rail safety regime, and supporting guidance on the relationship between safety culture, SMS and technical compliance and the regulator's role with respect to each of these elements.
  • Transport Canada develop internal capacity on safety culture, human factors, and behavioural and social sciences within its Rail Safety Program, and actively support the ongoing exchange of best practices and continuous learning within the railway industry.
  • Transport Canada, in partnership with industry and others, provide core funding to support initiatives such as safety culture assessments by short line railway companies, and academic institutions that promote continuous learning to further strengthen safety culture in the railway industry.

Transport Canada's Response:

Agree: Transport Canada is working to produce a safety culture policy statement. In doing so, and as suggested in the Report, we will engage other high-hazard industry regulators (e.g., the National Energy Board and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) to learn from their experiences with safety culture. We intend to work closely with industry and other stakeholders to develop this Policy Statement. We will also build on safety culture research underway in academia, such as at Saint Mary's University in Nova Scotia.

Next steps:

  • Engage expert guidance on current safety culture science and best practices
  • Develop a draft safety culture policy statement in consultation with stakeholders
  • Release a finalized Policy Statement on Safety Culture to better promote safety culture within the rail sector


Transport Canada is currently working to develop a Safety Culture Policy Statement. It will be released for public comments, prior to its final publication by the end of June 2019.

Theme 2: Rebuilding public trust

Related Recommendations:

Recommendation 14 - To uphold the principles of openness and transparency, engage in more meaningful dialogue with Canadians and help build public trust in the rail safety regime, it is recommended that Transport Canada, with the help of railways where needed, expand its engagement activities by:

  • publishing information on Transport Canada's oversight activities and railway remedial activities alongside the enforcement actions already available online;
  • developing and maintaining a publicly accessible interactive map tool that can provide information about the railway system including rail lines and owners, grade crossing locations and details, and accident/incident information;
  • modifying the departmental website to transform it into a more effective tool to inform the public and communities; and
  • building capacity for community and municipal outreach and public engagement activities on rail safety matters within Transport Canada.

Transport Canada's Response:

Agree: We are updating our website along the lines outlined in Recommendation 14, to increase transparency on our compliance and enforcement activities. Every year the department publishes a report, Transportation in Canada, which includes several maps. It is available on our website. We will build on the information in these maps to create an interactive map, as recommended by the Report. This interactive map could include information on the Canadian railway system, such as grade crossing locations, rail lines and owners. As well, an interactive map showing accident and incident information is already available on the Transportation Safety Board of Canada website.

Next steps:

  • We are currently considering what new information on our rail safety oversight activities could be useful and informative to the public, and user-friendly ways this information can be presented on Transport Canada's website


Work is currently underway to increase transparency and public education on rail safety through our website. Transport Canada will launch new rail safety content on our website, including an interactive map, by June 2019.

Theme 3: Leveraging technology and innovation

Related Recommendations:

Recommendation 4 - To capitalize on the potential for safety improvements that can be derived from technology and innovation in the rail sector, it is recommended that Transport Canada facilitate the development and adoption of rail safety technology by:

  • strengthening its capacity in the areas of technology evaluation and data analytics in the rail sector, including the proactive use of data analysis;
  • articulating a strategic outlook, research direction and objectives that would be used to evaluate existing and new technologies that enhance rail safety and provide predictability to industry to make investments in innovation;
  • leveraging relationships with research-oriented organizations to target research on human performance and inspection quality; and
  • ensuring exemptions granted for testing purposes under Section 22.1 of the Railway Safety Act include provisions for the testing data collected to be provided to Transport Canada for the purposes of regulatory development or additional research.

Transport Canada's Response:

Agree: The pace of innovation in the transportation sector is accelerating rapidly. New technologies like connectivity and automation, electrification, biofuel and remote sensing technologies are transforming the rail industry globally. Canada's rail industry is investigating greater use of technologies that could improve the quality of inspections.

To better facilitate the innovation process within the transport sector, in January 2018, under the Transportation 2030 Strategic Plan, Transport Canada launched its Innovation Centre. The Centre's objective is to:

  • create stronger capacity to anticipate technological change
  • share expertise in technology and research
  • identify innovative regulatory solutions
  • influence technology development globally

The Innovation Centre has focused research and development (R&D) capacity across the department into a central hub. This will enhance R&D collaboration with partners across Transport Canada and government, along with private sector and academic institutions such as the National Research Council Canada, the Canadian Rail Research Laboratory of the University of Alberta (CaRRL) and the U.S. Transportation Technology Center, Inc.

Next steps:

  • The Innovation Centre is currently working with the rail industry and academia on a strategic technology research plan for the rail sector, in order to support industry's efforts to innovate
  • Further, in response to the Report, it is now a standard policy to include provisions for data collection when approving exemptions under the Railway Safety Act for the testing of new technology.


With the creation of the Transport Canada Innovation Centre, work is well underway to fully meet the intent of Recommendation 4. Transport Canada will update the Guidelines on Exemption Requests to formally include data-sharing provisions by May 2019.

Theme 4: Improving rail safety governance

Related Recommendations:

Recommendation 9 - Recognizing that rail safety issues, including governance and proximity, are a shared responsibility and require extensive collaboration among governments as well as railways, it is recommended that:

  • there be an ongoing institutional ministerial-level mechanism (with appropriate working-level support) to identify, address and resolve rail safety issues (e.g., Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety and government departments responsible for land use planning); and
  • Transport Canada work with the provinces/territories to establish or update rail safety Memoranda of Agreement in order to ensure greater clarity and consistency in rail safety regimes across jurisdictions.

Transport Canada's Response:

Agree: Canada has one of the largest railway networks in the world, and federal-provincial cooperation is key to ensuring a strong regulatory and oversight regime across the country. A number of intergovernmental forums are already in place, such as working groups and various committees under the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety. The Council includes the federal Minister of Transport and each of the provincial and territorial counterparts. In response to the Report, we will use existing bodies under the Council as forums to have meaningful discussions on rail safety issues.

A number of provincesFootnote 2 have entered into inspection agreements (also known as Memoranda of Agreement, or MOAs) with the federal government. Through these agreements, Transport Canada conducts inspections of provincially regulated railways on behalf of the province on a cost-recovery basis.

Next Steps:

  • We are working with these provinces to renew all of the agreements, with the view to promoting:
    • better consistency between federal and provincial rail safety regimes across jurisdictions
    • clear accountability for follow-up on inspection findings
    • improved information-sharing, such as data to inform risk-based oversight activities


Our preferred ongoing ministerial-level mechanism is the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety. Transport Canada will continue to bring issues related to rail safety before committees under this Council.

The department is working with affected provinces to renew and update the inspection agreements (or MOAs). Transport Canada is working to renew all of the provincial inspection agreements by May 2019.

Recommendation 12 - In order to provide additional transparency around the rule-making process, it is recommended that:

  • Transport Canada develop a policy that articulates in which cases regulations will be considered instead of rules and that all stakeholders be informed of these criteria;
  • the Railway Safety Act be amended to allow the Minister to seek advice from, or consult with, any relevant party in relation to a proposed rule;
  • Transport Canada, in consultation with the railway industry, update the existing "Guideline on Submitting a Proposed Rule or a Revision to a Rule under the Railway Safety Act" to:
    • ensure that relevant associations and organizations and Transport Canada are involved earlier in the development and drafting of proposed rules; and
    • ensure the railway includes all comments received, along with the railway's response to each.

Recommendation 13 - It is recommended that Transport Canada, the Railway Association of Canada and railway companies work together to update rules or provide interpretation guidance for rules and regulations, as necessary, in order to:

  • ensure that rules are relevant, clear, consistent and enforceable;
  • account for operational differences between Class 1 railways, local/short line railways or commuter railways; and
  • provide the flexibility to allow technological innovation, where applicable.

These principles should also be considered when submitting new rules and should be reflected in the Guideline.

Transport Canada's Response:

Agree: The Report recommendations regarding rules and the rule-making process are aligned with current work underway within our department.

Next steps:


Transport Canada will continue to pursue discussions with industry and other stakeholders to agree on how to improve the rule-making process. The department will also update the rule-making guideline to improve and increase transparency in the rule-making process by June 2019.

Recommendation 15 - To clarify requirements in the Railway Safety Act, address jurisdictional gaps, and improve the Act's flexibility and efficiency, it is recommended that Transport Canada address issues within the Act and supporting instruments, in the noted areas of:

  • rail security and cyber security;
  • Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada decision deadlines;
  • notification of work near pipelines;
  • compliance agreements; and
  • mandatory Railway Safety Act reviews.

Transport Canada's Response:

Agree in principle: The Report proposes that Transport Canada considers making legislative changes in number of areas. These changes would address specific issues raised by stakeholders to improve efficiency, clarity and jurisdictional gaps in the Act. The Report noted that these amendments are not related to any urgent safety issues examined by the Panel. As such, Transport Canada will consider these areas in the context of broader legislative changes at a later date.


Transport Canada will examine these proposed legislative amendments as part of a comprehensive legislative proposal to respond to the Report's recommendations. We will bring forward this proposal for government consideration in the future.

Theme 5: Mitigating crossings and trespassing issues

Related Recommendations:

Recommendation 6 - It is recommended that Transport Canada develop a comprehensive national initiative to improve grade crossing safety, in partnership with other levels of government, the railway industry and other key stakeholders. This initiative should aim to establish and prioritize crossing programming on a risk basis, taking into account safety, railway corridor efficiency and crossing use. It should build on existing efforts and include:

  • providing increased and ongoing funding for the Rail Safety Improvement Program;
  • formalizing and publishing criteria that specify when grade separations should be considered instead of grade crossings;
  • prioritizing grade separation projects and grade crossing closures in all major infrastructure programs, to enhance public safety and strengthen trade corridors;
  • pursuing technological solutions to reduce motor vehicle/pedestrian and train collisions; and
  • taking measures to limit the number of new grade crossings, notably by examining the legal framework that currently governs their construction.

Transport Canada's Response:

Agree in principle: Reducing the number of fatalities and injuries that result from grade crossing collisions and trespassing on railway property is a priority issue for Transport Canada.

We have done considerable work in this area, which includes:

  • Introducing more comprehensive Grade Crossings Regulations. Under these regulations, existing grade crossings must meet upgraded safety standards by the end of 2021.
  • Increasing transparency on the state of Canada's grade crossings by releasing a risk-ranked Grade Crossings Inventory on the Government of Canada's Open Data Portal.
  • Providing funding for grade crossing improvements, closures and public education through the $55-million Rail Safety Improvement Program (RSIP). This program was launched in 2016 when the Government of Canada significantly increased funding and expanded the eligibility criteria. It has two key components: Infrastructure, Technology and Research Activities; and Public Education and Awareness.

    Funding supports:

    • safety improvements on rail property, along rail lines and at road-rail grade crossings such as flashing lights, bells and/or gates
    • use of innovative technologies
    • outreach, promotional awareness, educational activities and public service announcements
    • research and studies
    • closures of grade crossings that present safety concerns

Next steps

  • Develop a summary of all existing crossing measures at the federal level and engage stakeholders and road authorities in a stock taking of what is also happening at provincial and municipal levels
    • This would help provide all stakeholders with the complete picture of what is being done across Canada to improve grade crossing safety and reduce trespassing
  • This inventory would form the basis for discussions among jurisdictions and other stakeholders with a view to sharing best practices, identifying leveraging opportunities and generating ideas on additional measures or approaches that may be required
    • It also would inform decisions by all jurisdictions on respective options moving forward, including whether Canada needs a formal grade crossing strategy


Transport Canada will take stock of measures to improve crossing safety in industry and across jurisdictions, and will work with stakeholders on ways forward. A summary of federal crossing measures will be completed and shared with stakeholders by April 2019.

Recommendation 11 - In recognition of the vital role of short line railways in Canada's national transportation system, and the challenges they have in funding safety-related infrastructure improvements, it is recommended that:

  • funding under the Rail Safety Improvement Program allocate a portion specifically for grade crossings involving railways other than Class 1 railways; and
  • the Government provide additional financial support programs for short line infrastructure investment to improve safety.

Transport Canada's Response:

Agree in principle: We will continue to encourage smaller rail operators to apply for funding under the Rail Safety Improvement Program (RSIP). Under the RSIP, we are providing more than $20 million to fund 105 Rail Safety Improvement Program projects in 2018 to 2019. A number of short line railways have applied for and received funding for rail safety projects under the RSIP to date.

Next Steps:

  • Examine eligibility requirements and take-up by short lines of RSIP funding
  • Work with provinces and territories, as well as industry, to find more ways we can ensure that the rail safety regime does not create a disproportionate burden on smaller rail operations, such as more effective alignment between:
    • federal and provincial rail safety regimes, to reduce "red tape" for local railways that operate under both jurisdictions
    • safety culture assessments and safety management systems that develop better safety outcomes


Transport Canada will continue to encourage smaller operators to apply for funding under the Rail Safety Improvement Program. We are currently accepting applications for infrastructure, technology and research (ITR) projects that would start in 2020 to 2021. Application deadline August 1, 2019.

Recommendation 7 - As human behavior remains a persistent causal factor in rail-related deaths and serious injuries due to trespassing and grade crossing accidents, it is recommended that the federal government, in collaboration with other levels of government, the railway industry, academia and communities develop a national strategy to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries that result from trespassing on railway property. This strategy should comprise a number of components, including:

  1. a trespassing prevention program to create safer communities by promoting the development of long-term trespassing prevention measures through community-based partnerships. This includes sufficient and sustainable support for education and awareness programs, such as Operation Lifesaver Canada, to help them continue their activities in promoting rail safety among target groups;
  2. funding for research projects at universities and research centers to tackle trespassing and suicide issues; and
  3. linking to other initiatives, such as the Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention to work with other stakeholders to develop railway suicide prevention/intervention strategies that are evidence-based and supported by research.

Transport Canada's Response:

Agree: We are working with academia, industry and governments through the Railway Research Advisory Board (RRAB) to advance technological and behavioral research on grade crossing innovation and management strategies for vehicles and pedestrians at grade crossings. Our aim is to improve safety at crossings and adjacent to railway operations by:

  • targeting risk-taking behavior
  • improving and/or developing new warning and communication systems and technologies for all pedestrians

The Rail Safety Improvement Program includes support to organizations to raise public awareness of safe practices near rail operations. This is helping to reduce the number of railway crossing and trespassing accidents in communities across Canada. An example is Operation Lifesaver's public education campaign "Look. Listen. Live.".

Next Steps:

  • Transport Canada will work with industry, other federal departments and jurisdictions on trespassing prevention, including suicide research and prevention
  • Finalize work to identify and assess engineering options for pedestrian safety, including for persons using assistive devices


Transport Canada will launch new rail safety content on our website, including a rail safety public education element, by June 2019. The department will also publish engineering design options to improve the accessibility of grade crossings for pedestrian safety by June 2019.

Recommendation 8 - It is recommended that the federal government provide leadership in addressing incompatible land use around rail operations by driving a substantive dialogue between all jurisdictions and stakeholders, with a view to developing a solution to land use near rail operations on a national scale. Measures to this effect should include:

  1. launching a senior government-level dialogue with the provincial/territorial governments to promote the formal adoption of measures equivalent to the "Guidelines for New Development in Proximity to Railway Operations", developed jointly by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Railway Association of Canada, in land use planning policies that apply to municipalities;
  2. amendments to Part III (Non-Railway Operations Affecting Railway Safety) of the Railway Safety Act be made to provide the Governor in Council with the authority to make regulations requiring land use planning authorities to provide pre-notice to affected railway companies before authorizing land use or zoning changes, as well as construction within a prescribed distance (e.g., 300 meters) of a railway corridor; and
  3. amendments to Part III (Non-Railway Operations Affecting Railway Safety) of the Railway Safety Act to provide the Governor in Council with the authority to make regulations that define safety criteria for construction and activity within a prescribed distance (e.g., 30 meters) of a railway operation. Regulations should be developed in consultation with relevant provinces/territories, Indigenous groups, municipalities, railways, associations, and citizen groups.

Transport Canada's Response:

Agree in principle: We need to do more work, in collaboration with partners, to determine the best way to respond to this recommendation. Transport Canada will continue to support rail crossing improvements, closures, technological innovation and public education through the Rail Safety Improvement Program (RSIP). This includes encouraging railway companies and road authorities to apply for funding for high-risk locations, and promoting the program to smaller road authorities and short line railways to increase their awareness of the program and application process.

Next steps:

  • Finalize current work towards grade separation guidelines, in consultation with industry and community stakeholders
    • The guidelines will help land use planners and developers, municipalities and road authorities do risk-based infrastructure assessments and plan more efficient, safer access across rail infrastructure
  • Continue to encourage provinces, territories and municipalities to adopt the Guidelines for New Development in Proximity to Railway Operations (Proximity Guidelines) [PDF, 5.6 MB] in their land use planning policies
    • These Guidelines were developed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Railway Association of Canada under their joint Proximity Initiative


Transport Canada will continue to encourage other jurisdictions to adopt the Proximity Guidelines. We will use the governance structure of the Council of Ministers to launch a dialogue on proximity issues.

Theme 6: Addressing human factor risks

Related Recommendations:

Recommendation 3 - It is recommended that Transport Canada assume a leadership role on fatigue in the rail sector in order to set a flexible way forward that is in place in a timely fashion and includes:

  1. working with employee representatives (unions), industry, and fatigue science specialists to develop a national approach to fatigue in the rail sector, including sustained collaboration between unions and industry; and
  2. regulating prescriptive minimum criteria (that reduce the current number of on-duty hours and provide increased opportunities for rest) and non-prescriptive measures based on evolving fatigue science.

Transport Canada's Response:

Agree: Fatigue is pervasive in the transportation sector. "24/7" operations, 365 days a year are the norm. Workers are subject to shift work, disruptive schedules and long hours of work. In 2016, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) cited sleep-related fatigue as a contributing factor or risk in 23 TSB railway investigations conducted since 1994. TSB placed the issue of fatigue in the rail industry on its Watchlist 2016.

This recommendation is consistent with Transport Canada's current focus on addressing human factors that are a leading contributing cause of railway accidents and incidents.

The Government is taking a leadership role on this issue through our comprehensive approach to addressing fatigue among rail operating employees. This includes publishing a Notice of Intent in Canada Gazette, Part I on November 11, 2017 [PDF, 888 KB], which communicates to Canadians and interested stakeholders our most current policy direction with respect to the management of fatigue in the rail industry.

Publishing this Notice of Intent on the Government's policy direction provides an early opportunity for interested parties to share their views—before we bring forward proposed amendments to the rail safety regulatory framework to address fatigue-related issues.

Transport Canada has committed to working with stakeholders, including leading experts, industry and unions, among others, to develop improved fatigue management in the rail industry. In June 2018, we hosted a Fatigue in Transportation Forum attended by government, industry and leading fatigue experts.

Next Steps:

  • Undertake a review of fatigue risk management system best practices in the transportation sector and other industries. This review will determine how these concepts can be applied in the rail industry in Canada, and to support potential regulatory changes.
  • Further, we will commission a review of key positions in the rail industry relating directly or indirectly to safe railway operations. The review will look at work schedules, sleep patterns, fatigue exposure and risks associated with human factor–related accidents. It will recommend further avenues of fatigue research and fatigue risk management.


Transport Canada has issued a Ministerial Order to bring forward changes to the Work/Rest Rules to manage fatigue of railway operating employees by May 2019.

Recommendation 5 - It is recommended that Transport Canada, in partnership with industry, develop a Canadian approach to enhanced train control (ETC) technologies and establish a technology road map for implementing ETC in a staged and cost-effective manner.

Transport Canada's Response:

Agree: Transport Canada supports the use of train control technologies, as they represent an innovative means for Canada to further improve rail safety. Implementing enhanced train control (ETC) is a long-standing recommendation of the Transportation Safety Board.

The department has made a considerable amount of progress to date developing a Canadian approach to ETC. A joint Transport Canada-industry train control working group under the Advisory Council on Railway Safety (ACRS) concluded that a targeted, risk-based, corridor-specific implementation of train control technologies would be the best option for Canada. On October 2016, the final report of the Train Control Working Group was published on Transport Canada's website.

Additionally, in January 2017, Transport Canada co-hosted a workshop with the Railway Association of Canada, where experts from Canada and the United States (U.S.) discussed lessons learned while implementing Positive Train Control in the U.S. Participants reviewed the issues Canada could face as we put train control technology in place across our rail sector.

Building on work from the ACRS working group, Transport Canada collaborated with the Canadian Rail Research Laboratory (CARRL) at the University of Alberta to:

  • review the potential impact that various train control approaches could have had on past occurrences on the Canadian rail network
  • study the feasibility of implementing various levels of train control in Canada, based on levels of risk

In May 2018, the key findings of the report completed by CARRL, which highlighted that an ETC system may have prevented between 3.5% (Level 1) and 6% (Level 4) of all RODS occurrences were published on Transport Canada's website.

Any adoption of ETC broadly in Canada will need to ensure interoperability (i.e., the ability for the railway system to support both freight and passenger traffic, for trains to operate on multiple lines, and for the communication system to function with components provided by different suppliers). As well, given the importance that radio communication will play in the successful implementation of ETC, Transport Canada is working in partnership with the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to assist industry to determine requirements specific for rail.

Ultimately, the ETC implementation roadmap will define an interoperable approach that best serves all operators on the rail network and will include a timeline for ETC adoption in Canada. To further support the roadmap, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific Rail and VIA Rail have communicated to the department that they are supportive of the Panel's recommendation and wish to work with TC to establish how ETC can be deployed in Canada.

Next steps:

  • For these reasons, and to ensure successful ETC implementation in Canada, Transport Canada will continue to lead work with industry partners and other government colleagues to chart a roadmap for ETC adoption in Canada, which will:
    • Take a corridor approach by emphasizing priority on the highest-risk corridors, such as the Quebec City/Windsor corridor and other locations, where the risk is higher due to mixed passenger and freight service and train operation in areas of higher population density
    • Define interoperability standards that serve all operators on the rail network
    • Facilitate the assessment of telecommunications options necessary for successful ETC implementation


Over the next year, in consultation with stakeholders and government partners, Transport Canada will lead the development of an enhanced train control (ETC) roadmap, which meets the needs of passenger and freight service providers and allows for innovative ETC solutions.

Summary recommendation

Recommendation 16 - It is recommended that in order to maintain and develop a rail safety regime that meets the challenges of today and the future, Transport Canada's Rail Safety Program undergo a significant strategic transformation in role and safety approach. This change should maintain the current strengths of the Department in regulation, inspection and enforcement while transforming its role and capacity to:

  1. improve the implementation of SMS and promote safety culture;
  2. enhance capacity of Transport Canada to address human and organizational performance issues that are critical to safety;
  3. provide leadership and flexibility on safety enhancing technological innovations;
  4. increase leadership and direction to address crossing and trespassing issues and safe and compatible land development in proximity to railways; and
  5. improve collaboration among governments to address safety issues and develop an improved communications platforms for community assurance and outreach.

Transport Canada's Response:

Agree: The Report's concluding Recommendation 16, on transforming Transport Canada's rail safety approach, underlies work on each of the six identified themes outlined within this response. As Transport Canada moves to implement each of the Report's recommendations, Canada's rail safety regime moves further toward a modern framework that can meet the challenges of today and the future.

We have also begun work to modernize our legislative, regulatory and oversight regimes on a department-wide basis, work that aligns with the Report's call for a transformation in our role and approach to rail safety oversight.

To keep up with the pace of change in the transportation sector, Transport Canada launched an ambitious Transformation Strategy in 2017. This strategy will bring about fundamental change to how we regulate the transportation sector, as well as how we organize and deliver our programs and services. It will enable Transport Canada to better respond to the rapidly evolving demands of the sector; support investment, innovation, and economic growth; and ensure that our workforce has the competencies and tools needed to adapt to and succeed in this new environment.

Next Steps:

  • To align our legislative regimes with international best practices, we recognize that we need to be more:
    • Coherent to allow for consistent strategies, decision making, and application of best practices
    • Agile to allow for the support and response to current and future demands of the transportation sector, including industry innovation and investment
    • Supportive of pro-active, risk-based decision-making, planning, and management


Related findings and Recommendations in the Report are informing ongoing work by Transport Canada, both within the Rail Safety Directorate and through broader departmental efforts to modernize its oversight role. Our Transformation Agenda has started, and we will continue to ensure that Transport Canada remains a world-class regulator and economic enabler in all modes.


Transport Canada agrees that the Report identifies the right rail safety priorities to address outstanding rail safety issues and modernize Canada's rail safety oversight regime to meet the challenges of the next decade. These are complex issues that cannot be tackled by Transport Canada and railway companies alone. That is why a number of the actions we will take to implement the recommendations include work we will do with partners, and/or steps for engaging stakeholders.

As well, in response to feedback on the Report from stakeholders, we will make sure that steps we take to continue strengthening rail safety and modernizing Canada's rail safety oversight regime are informed by expertise, technical knowledge and the on-the-ground experiences of the communities where Canada's rail system operates.

Actions we take to respond to the findings and conclusions of the Railway Safety Act Review are a significant contribution to our overall efforts to strengthen rail safety in Canada. The recommendations of the Review Panel will guide the future work of the department and shape the strategic objectives of the Rail Safety Program in the years to come.