Transport Canada to implement Enhanced Train Control technologies in Canada

Technologies reduce the potential for human error, according to government

Transport Canada to implement Enhanced Train Control technologies in Canada

The federal government is moving forward with its plan to use Enhanced Train Control technologies to improve rail safety.

Transport Canada has published a Letter of Intent in the Canada Gazette, Part I, detailing a path forward to implement the said technologies in the country.

“The safety benefits of Enhanced Train Control technologies are widely recognized when it comes to helping prevent certain railway accidents caused by human behaviour,” said Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport. “This Notice of Intent is a first step, and successfully introducing this technology to Canada will involve working closely with industry, labour representatives and other stakeholders to develop new approaches, standards and protocols. Enhanced Train Control technologies represent an innovative means to further improve rail safety in Canada.”

The Notice of Intent describes an approach to implementing the technologies by having railway companies tailor investments according to the level of safety risk posed by individual railway corridors. In particular:

  • Enhanced Train Control technologies with more advanced levels of functionality would be used in higher-risk corridors (i.e., to stop the movement of trains to prevent collisions with other trains, derailments caused by excessive train speed, or prevent trains from entering unauthorized areas of tracks).
  • Enhanced Train Control technologies, with the basic level of functionality, would be used in lower-risk corridors to alert train crews to potential danger (such as exceeding speed restrictions or upcoming stop signal indications).

In 2021, Transport Canada announced several changes to the Canadian Rail Operating Rules that will reduce the risk of uncontrolled movement of railway equipment.        

With the said publication, the government is encouraging stakeholders to provide feedback and future collaboration on the implementation of Enhanced Train Control in Canada.

Canadian National and Canadian Pacific have installed these technologies in their United States operations, according to the federal government.

Both the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the 2018 Railway Safety Act Review Panel recommended that Transport Canada develop a Canadian approach to implementing Enhanced Train Control in Canada.

Transport Canada previously established a Train Control Working Group with representatives from railways and labour. The working group studied options and recommended that a targeted, risk-based, corridor-specific approach be used to implement train control in Canada.

In mid-2021, the federal government also looked for input from stakeholders on how to improve the safety culture within Canada's rail industry.