Railway companies must develop a winter operation plan approved by a professional engineer
Transport Canada has approved the changes to the Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes under the Railway Safety Act.
The changes are the result of Ministerial Orders that were put in place in 2020, to address important risk factors for derailments caused by railway infrastructure, especially during winter operations, according to the federal government.
In November 2020, Transport Canada issued a Ministerial Order under the Rail Safety Act to restrict train speeds based on cold temperature conditions, instead of restricting train speed based on a winter date range.
“Canada maintains one of the safest rail systems in the world as a result of shared efforts between our government and numerous partners, including railway companies and communities,” said Omar Alghabra, minister of transport. “Today, we are making changes to address risks associated with the transportation of dangerous goods by rail, including train speed, colder weather operations and further strengthening track maintenance and inspection practices. Our government is committed to continuing to work to build an even safer Canada for everyone.”
Under the new rules, rail companies must develop a winter operation plan that is specific to each subdivision where higher-risk key trains operate, which must be approved by a professional engineer.
The new rules also:
- require the use of new technology to detect a broken rail in areas where it is not currently present;
- strengthen track inspection (increased frequency and improved quality) and track maintenance requirements (i.e., ultrasonically testing replacement rail and improved record-keeping); and,
- define a “higher risk key train” as a train carrying large quantities of crude oil or liquid petroleum gases and prescribe speed restrictions for these trains.
Previously, the Minister of Transport ordered railway companies to propose changes to the Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes that would make speed restrictions permanent, and to propose additional changes to further strengthen track maintenance and inspection practices.
Transport Canada approved the Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes in 2016, under the Railway Safety Act, in response to a series of derailments of trains carrying crude oil. The rules impose speed restrictions on railway companies that operate key trains, and stronger requirements for track inspections and risk assessments for key routes.
In October 2020, Transport Canada announced new safety measures following the conclusion of an investigation into a fatal incident in 2017 conducted by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
The measures include requiring companies to adopt new practices for employees to follow when conducting switching operations – taking railcars from one track to another – to ensure that equipment is properly secured.