Rail Safety in Canada

With nearly 41,711 route-kilometers of track, Canada has the third-largest rail network in the world. Railways played a key role in shaping our country. They continue to be important for our economy as a primary mode of freight transportation.

The Canadian rail system has both federal and provincial railways. Railways that cross provincial or international boundaries are governed federally. Railways that only operate within a province are governed provincially.

Transport Canada’s Rail Safety Program

Transport Canada develops and implements policies and regulations, and administers the Railway Safety Act. The department conducts approximately 40,000 railway safety inspections every year.

We inspect companies and road authorities to ensure they comply with the Act, and with regulations, rules, and engineering standards made under the Act. Rail safety inspectors conduct inspections (including audits) to determine whether a railway’s operations, equipment, signals and infrastructure support safety.

We also review and update the legislation on rail safety. The Act has been reviewed 4 times since coming into force in 1989. The most recent review was done in 2017 to 2018 by an independent panel.

Fund for railway accidents involving designated goods

This Fund compensates people, businesses, and communities for costs beyond the insurance coverage held and paid out by railways in the event of a severe railway accident involving crude oil.

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The Railway Safety Act

The main legislation that gives Transport Canada responsibility for overseeing rail safety is the Railway Safety Act.

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Safety Management Systems:
an additional layer of safety

The Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015, which came into effect on April 1, 2015, provide a framework for companies to integrate safety into their day-to-day railway operations. They build on 12 years of lessons learned in providing regulatory oversight of safety management systems in the rail industry.

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Grade crossings map

Compliance and enforcement

Rail safety inspectors determine whether a railway’s operations, equipment, signals and infrastructure support safety. Approximately 155 inspectors carry out around 40,000 inspections across the country every year.

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Improvements to Rail Safety and the Safe Transportation of Dangerous Goods by Rail

Since July 2013, Transport Canada has taken a number of concrete steps to strengthen rail safety and the safety of transporting dangerous goods.

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Rail safety overview - Safety in action