Canadian Transportation Research Forum

Canadian Transportation Research Forum

November 04, 2013 12:11 ET

Despite Recent Accidents, Canadian Freight Railway Safety Performance Steadily Improving

But further changes to the regulatory framework are needed

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Nov. 4, 2013) - Over the past ten years main-track collisions and derailments - the most serious category of rail accidents - have declined by over 50 per cent. Yet the recent tragic rail accident in Lac-Mégantic involving a unit train of crude oil, and the significant increases in crude oil shipments by rail that have taken place over the past several years highlight the need for changes to the rail safety regulatory framework. A new policy briefing by the Canadian Transportation Research Forum (CTRF) offers insights on some possible changes to that framework for consideration.

"Due to recent accidents there is a perception that rail safety performance in Canada has been poor and that there has been very little regulatory effort devoted to the topic. Both of those perceptions are misguided." said Marc-André Roy, President of the CTRF. "Not only has rail safety performance improved but the federal Railway Safety Act (RSA) has been reviewed and amended in recent years. Nonetheless, there are opportunities for further improvement, some of which based on previous Transportation Safety Board recommendations not yet fully implemented."

The CTRF supports reviewing the need to change the regulatory framework that ensure, among other objectives, that the costs of accidents are borne by the rail and shipper industries rather than by the communities through which the goods travel. The possible changes considered in the briefing are addressed under four categories:

I The need for enhanced standards for DOT-111 tank cars, the type that were involved at Lac-Mégantic;
II Strengthening railway third-party liability insurance regulations;
III Examining operations, while balancing the legitimate concerns of communities, to identify concrete actions that can be taken to further reduce safety risks; and
IV Revisiting relevant Transportation Safety Board recommendations not yet fully implemented

"The rail industry in North America is highly integrated. As a result it is important that the various regulatory authorities and stakeholders also act in an integrated manner," said Malcolm Cairns, author of the briefing. "It is also important that the design and implementation of any regulatory changes avoid imposing costs on the industries that are disproportionately greater than the expected value of the safety improvements."

The briefing "Rail Safety in Transporting Dangerous Goods in Canada: What are the needs for changes to the regulatory framework?", describes the facts and context surrounding the possible regulatory changes. It also identifies the points of view of the various stakeholders. The CTRF is planning a one-day conference before year's end to bring together some of the stakeholders to discuss and elaborate further details.

The Canadian Transportation Research Forum is a non-profit association of transportation professionals that has been operating since 1965. Its mission is to promote the development of research in transportation and related fields and provide a forum for networking and discussion by: publishing research papers, providing opportunities to discuss transportation issues, and providing an environment for professional networking and encouraging student interest in transportation research.

Contact Information

  • Media Contact:
    Philip Davies
    Vice President External Affairs
    (604) 764-9303

    Carole Ann Woudsma
    (519) 421-9701

    Author Contact:
    Malcolm Cairns Research and Consulting
    Malcolm Cairns
    (613) 692-2764