Compliance and enforcement

Transport Canada’s oversight program uses inspections and audits to verify that companies and road authorities are complying with:

Rail safety inspectors determine whether a railway’s operations, equipment, signals and infrastructure support safety. Approximately 150 inspectors carry out around 33,000 inspections across the country every year.

These inspectors look at a broad range of safety issues, including:

  • Equipment: Do locomotives, freight cars, passenger cars, air reservoirs and train brakes meet rules, regulations, standards and guidelines?
  • Operations: Is the railway operating in a safe way, including in roads and rail yards? Are crews and rail traffic controllers working safely?
  • Crossings and signals: Do public and private grade crossings comply with the regulations, standards and engineering principles?
  • Bridges: Are railways managing the risks associated with bridges?
  • Track: Are the railways complying with the rules, regulations, standards and guidelines that apply to track?
  • Safety management systems (SMS): Is the railway complying with SMS regulations? Is the system working as intended? Is the SMS effective?

In a typical year, inspectors conduct about 33,000 railway safety inspections.

On a 3 to 5 year cycle (or sooner, based on risk), Transport Canada audits the safety management system of each railway company under our jurisdiction.

The 2 main pillars of Transport Canada’s monitoring of rail safety are:

  • compliance with legal requirements
  • safety of railway operations

How we enforce compliance

Transport Canada uses a graduated enforcement approach to address non-compliance with:

  • the Railway Safety Act and its regulations and rules
  • orders from the Minister
  • orders from inspectors
  • emergency directives

This approach ties into the Act’s emphasis on all parties working to improve railway safety, even though companies must manage the risks associated with their operations.

When considering an enforcement action, rail safety inspectors or officials start with the most appropriate tool. They may escalate an action based on necessity or risk.

To be clear, if the level of risk warrants it, an inspector or official can use a more serious enforcement tool right away. For example, they could:

  • issue an administrative monetary penalty
  • suspend or cancel a company’s Railway Operating Certificate

Factors they consider when deciding which tool to use include the company’s behaviour and willingness to comply.

Graduated enforcement tools

  1. Letter of non-compliance

  2. Letter of warning: administrative monetary penalty

  3. Notice of violation

  4. Letter of warning: suspending or cancelling a Railway Operating Certificate

  5. Prosecution and/or suspending or cancelling a Railway Operating Certificate

Letter of non-compliance

Identifies a non-compliance under the Railway Safety Act. It includes a timeframe for the regulated party (up to 14 days from the date of issuance) to detail its corrective measures. Inspectors will follow up to verify that the company has completed the corrective actions. Failing to take corrective action may result in progression to other enforcement tools.

Letter of warning: administrative monetary penalty

Optional tool to warn a company that it may receive a notice of violation if it does not take action within a specified timeframe to respond to a non-compliance. Note: depending on the circumstances, Transport Canada may issue a notice of violation without warning.

Notice of violation

Formally notifies a company that it will be required to pay an administrative monetary penalty. Describes the violation and penalty amount, which is a maximum of $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for corporations. Individuals or corporations may appeal the penalty to the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada.

Letter of warning: suspending or cancelling a Railway Operating Certificate

Optional tool we use to warn a company that we may suspend or cancel its certificate, if it doesn’t take within a specified timeframe to respond to a non-compliance. Note: the Minister of Transport may suspend or cancel the certificate without warning, if needed.

Prosecution

Authority to prosecute comes from section 41 of the Railway Safety Act. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada makes the actual decision to prosecute. This decision is based on specific criteria, including if there is enough evidence and if doing so is in the public’s interest.

Suspending or cancelling the Railway Operating Certificate

The Minister of Transport may suspend or cancel a company’s certificate if it:

  • contravenes any provisions of the Act or its related instruments
  • stops meeting any of the prescribed conditions for getting the certificate
  • requests that its certificate be suspended or cancelled

How we enforce safety under the Act

We use these tools to respond to threats to safe railway operations. They are not tools for enforcing compliance with regulatory requirements, unless the non-compliance creates a threat or immediate threat.

Notice
(threat to safety)

Notice and order
(immediate threat to safety; company level)

Emergency directive
(immediate threat to safety; industry/national level)

Court order

Prosecution

Suspending or cancelling the Railway Operating Certificate

 

Notice

Formal written document issued by an inspector under section 31 of the Act. Informs a regulated party that the inspector believes there is a threat to safe railway operations. Includes a timeframe (normally up to 7 days) for the company to respond. Describes how to remove the threat to the inspector’s satisfaction.

Notice and order

Same as above, but includes an order restricting the company’s operations or use of equipment or infrastructure, until it takes action to stop the immediate threat. Individuals or corporations may appeal the notice and order to the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada.

Note: Inspectors may also issue a notice or notice and order to a road authority or municipality, if something that falls under their authority is causing the threat. This could include a crossing where the company and road authority or municipality have joint responsibilities. In this situation, the inspector would issue the notice or notice and order to both parties.

Emergency directive

Under section 33 of the Railway Safety Act, if the Minister of Transport believes there is an immediate threat to safe railway operations, the Minister or a delegated authority may issue an emergency directive. This directive would order a company to:

  • stop a particular unsafe action
  • take specific action to mitigate the immediate threat

The directive may stay in effect for up to 6 months and be renewed for another 6 months. The directive supersedes any conflicting regulation, rule or standard in force.

Order of the court

Under section 34 of the Railway Safety Act, a ministerial order, emergency directive, notice or order may be made an order of the court. In the case of a notice and order, the order must be first confirmed by the Minister with a ministerial order under the Act. This order is enforced in the same way as a court order (for example, through contempt of court proceedings, or by seeking an injunction).

Prosecution

Authorities to enforce contraventions to provisions of the RSA and associated instruments through prosecution are found under section 41 of the RSA. The actual decision to prosecute is made by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, based on specific criteria, including if there is sufficient evidence for the institution or continuation of proceedings, and the public’s interest requires that a prosecution be pursued.

Suspending or cancelling the Railway Operating Certificate (ROC)

The Minister of Transport may suspend or cancel a company’s ROC if a company contravenes any provisions of the Act or its related instruments, or ceases to meet any of the prescribed conditions for obtaining the certificate, or if a company requests that its ROC be suspended or cancelled.

Number of inspections completed in fiscal year 2018-2019
Equipment Track Crossings Operations OHS Natural Bridges Signals SMS Total
14,960 14,289 2,390 1,135 754 1,583 663 630 41 36,445
Rail companies that have received an SMS audit

Company name

Audit year

Federal companies

1. BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) Railway Company

2016-17
2017-18
2018-19

2. Canadian National Railway Company (CN)

2016-17
2017-18
2018-19

3. Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CPR)

2016-17
2017-18
2018-19

4. Chemin de fer Québec North Shore & Labrador (QNSL)

2018-19

5. City of Ottawa carrying on business as Capital Railway

2017-18

6. Central Maine and Quebec Railway Canada Inc.

2016-17
2017-18
2018-19

7. CSX Transportation, Inc. (CSXT)

2016-17
2017-18
2018-19

8. Eastern Maine Railway Company

2016-17

9. Goderich-Exeter Railway Company Limited (GEXR)

2016-17

10. Great Canadian Railtour Company Ltd. (Rocky Mountaineer)

2017-18
2018-19

11. Hudson Bay Railway Company (HBRY)

2016-17

12. Kettle Falls International Railway Company (being taken over by St-Paul and Pacific Northwest Railroad Company)

2016-17

13. Logistec Stevedoring (Nova Scotia) Inc. also carrying on business as Sydney Coal Railway (SCR)

2017-18

14. National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)

2018-19

15. Nipissing Central Railway

2017-18

16. Norfolk Southern Railway Company (NS)

2018-19

17. Pacific & Arctic Railway Navigation, British Columbia & Yukon Railway, British Yukon Railway also known as White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad (WP&YR)

2017-18

18. RaiLink Canada Ltd. (Ottawa Valley Railway & Southern Ontario Railway)

2016-17

19. St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad (Québec) Inc.(SLQ)

2016-17
2017-18
2018-19

20. The Essex Terminal Railway Company (ETL)

2018-19

21. The Toronto Terminals Railway Company Limited (TTR)

2016-17
2017-18

22. Transport Ferroviaire Tshiuetin Inc.

2017-18

23. Union Pacific Railroad Company

2018-19

24. VIA Rail Canada Inc.

2016-17
2017-18
2018-19

25. 9961526 Canada Limited

2017-18

Local Railway Companies

26. Battle River Railway NGC Inc.

2018-19

27. Big Sky Railway Corp.

2017-18

28. Boundary Trail Railway Company, Inc.

2018-19

29. Canfor Pulp Ltd. - Northwood Division

2018-19

30. Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway Ltd. (CBNS)

2018-19

31. Cargill Limited - Cargill Limitée

2016-17

32. Carlton Trail Railway Company

2018-19

33. Central Manitoba Railway Inc. (CEMR)

2016-17

34. Chemin de fer Orford Express Inc.

2017-18

35. Chemin de fer Sartigan

2017-18

36. Chemin de fer Québec-Gatineau Inc. (CFQG)

2016-17
2018-19

37. Compagnie du Chemin de fer Roberval Saguenay (RS)

2018-19

38. Essar Steel Algoma Inc.

2018-19

39. Great Sandhills Railway Ltd.

2017-18

40. Great Western Railway, Ltd. (GWR)

2017-18

41. Huron Central Railway Inc. (HCRY)

2016-17

42. Keewatin Railway Company

2018-19

43. Koch Fertilizer Canada, ULC

2017-18

44. Lake Line Railroad Inc.

2016-17

45. Last Mountain Railway

2017-18

46. Metrolinx (GO Transit)

2016-17

47. Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONT)

2017-18

48. Ontario Southland Railway Inc. (OSR)

2016-17

49. Prairie Rail Solutions Ltd.

2017-18

50. Prudential Steel ULC

2018-19

51. Railserve Inc.

2018-19

52. Réseau de transport métropolitain (AMT)- now operating as EXO

2018-19

53. Rio Tinto Alcan

2018-19

54. Southern Rails Co-operative Ltd. (SRC)

2018-19

55. Southern Railway of British Columbia Limited (SRY)

2016-17

56. Stewart Southern Railway Inc.

2016-17

57. Thunder Rail Ltd.

2018-19

58. Torch River Rail Inc.

2018-19

59. West Coast Express

2017-18
2018-19