New rules will reduce the risk of uncontrolled movement of railway equipment
Transport Canada has announced several changes to the Canadian Rail Operating Rules that will reduce the risk of uncontrolled movement of railway equipment.
“Maintaining a safe, efficient and reliable rail system is key to the continued success of Canada’s economy. Transport Canada continues working to modernize its rail safety oversight and to directly address key safety risks facing Canada’s rail network,” said Omar Alghabra, minister of transport.
Following the changes, the Canadian Rail Operating Rules now prescribe:
- when air brakes must be used during switching operations (i.e. process of rearranging rail cars in a train yard) to ensure a consistent approach across the railway system;
- measures to ensure that stationary equipment is secured during switching operations to prevent uncontrolled movements; and
- speed restrictions when switching is conducted with a remotely controlled locomotive.
The changes are the result of a Ministerial Order that was issued in September 2020 that required the railway industry to adopt new practices designed to improve safety and prevent uncontrolled movement while conducting switching operations, and to ensure that equipment is properly secured while switching.
That month, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada recommended that Transport Canada, railway companies and their labour representatives work together to reduce the number of uncontrolled movements in rail yards, specifically those caused by rail cars being moved without using air brakes – a routine task known as “switching without air.”
That same time, the federal government announced it is investing $25 million over three years through Transport Canada for the Rail Safety Improvement Program, which will support 165 new projects and initiatives that will increase safety and Canadian’s confidence at grade crossings and along rail lines.
Transport Canada conducts more than 35,000 inspections every year as part of its oversight activities to ensure that rail companies and road authorities comply with the Rail Safety Act.
Transport Canada has also increased fines on people for trespassing on property where railway lines are located and for not giving way at railway crossings. It is currently looking for input from stakeholders on how to improve the safety culture within Canada's rail industry.