Canada approves changes to improve rail safety

From: Transport Canada

Our railways are an important part of our national transportation network. That is why the Government of Canada is focused on the reliable transportation of dangerous goods by rail in colder weather, and the protection of both railway workers and those living near Canada’s rail corridors. In a large nation like Canada, rail is often the only economically viable mode of transportation to move commodities within the country, across the border, and to our ports for shipment overseas. Our rail system makes a significant contribution to our country’s economy and that is why the Government of Canada is continuing to take strong action to ensure rail safety.

Today, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, announced that changes to the Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes have been approved by Transport Canada. These 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.

The revised Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes, under the Railway Safety Act, now:

  • require railway companies to 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;
  • require 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.

Transport Canada continues to work with the railway industry to make our railway system even safer for Canadians.


“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. 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.”

The Honourable Omar Alghabra

Minister of Transport

Quick facts

  • In 2020, the Minister of Transport issued a number of Ministerial Orders, under the Railway Safety Act, which put in place speed restrictions for key trains and higher-risk key trains.

  • The Minister of Transport also ordered railway companies to propose changes to the Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes that would make these 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 (e.g. Lac Mégantic (2013), Gladwick (2015), Gogama (2015)).

  • These rules impose speed restrictions on railway companies that operate key trains, and stronger requirements for track inspections and risk assessments for key routes.

  • Transport Canada monitors railway companies for compliance with rules, regulations, and standards made under the Railway Safety Act through risk-based audits and safety inspections.

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