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Feds announce new measures to reduce risk of train derailments

Stepped up requirements for railways come years after an audit of rail safety oversight
CP Train Derails
Canadian Pacific crews examine a train derailment over the McVicar Creek bridge near Thunder Bay's Marina Park on June 8, 2021 (TBnewswatch)

OTTAWA — The federal transport department is implementing new measures it says will improve railway track safety across the country.

Transport Canada on Wednesday announced a series of changes to its Rules Respecting Track Safety.

The amendments require railway operators to do the following:

  • develop Key Performance Indicators to help Transport Canada analyze track conditions and inform the department's oversight activities
  • strengthen requirements for inspection and maintenance of ties
  • provide government inspectors with access to additional information on company track standards so they can ensure that oversight is effective and consistent

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the changes are the final phase in a series of three that stem from a 2020 ministerial order focusing on major risks that could cause derailments due to the condition of railway infrastructure.

In February 2021 the federal Auditor General tabled a report that found Transport Canada still had not addressed all recommendations from a 2013 Auditor General audit of rail safety oversight.

Karen Hogan said "I am very concerned that while Transport Canada has taken some actions to address our recommendations, eight years after our last audit there is still much left to do."

Revisions announced by the government in May 2021 and December 2021 focused on the training and qualification of railway personnel who inspect tracks, track inspection frequency, and automated track inspection technology.

In his announcement Wednesday, Alghabra said "These rules changes will enhance safety by improving information-sharing between railway companies and Transport Canada, as well as by strengthening maintenance requirements for crossties."