Harper government launches Rail Safety Week with new funding for railway crossing improvements

OTTAWA, April 29, 2013 /CNW/ - The Honourable Steven Fletcher, Minister of State (Transport), today launched Rail Safety Week with a multi-million-dollar commitment to improve railway crossings.

"A safe and secure national rail transportation system is important to local communities and to Canada's economic well-being," said Minister Fletcher. "While Canada has one of the safest rail systems in the world, improvements can still be made. This $9.3 million investment of new funding will enhance safety for pedestrians and motorists at 523 locations across the country, and help to save lives."

Almost half of all railway-related deaths and injuries result from accidents at crossings. The Government of Canada is committed to reducing the number of these accidents by working closely with railway companies and communities to identify grade crossings that require safety improvements. Studies reveal that accident rates fall by up to 69 per cent and fatality rates by up to 80 per cent after grade crossing improvements are completed.

Through the Government of Canada's Grade Crossing Improvement Program (GCIP), eligible railway crossings are upgraded or relocated based on factors such as traffic volume and accident history. Improvements may include installing flashing lights and bells, installing gate barriers, linking crossing signals to traffic signals, or adding new circuits or timing devices. Transport Canada finances up to half of the total eligible costs of grade crossing improvements, with the balance provided by the railways and road authorities.

To further improve rail safety, the Government of Canada has also made amendments to the Railway Safety Act. These amendments, which come into force on May 1, 2013, will encourage rail companies to create and maintain a culture of safety and penalize rule breakers by enabling the Government of Canada to:

  • require railway companies to obtain a safety-based Railway Operating Certificate and to submit environmental management plans;
  • crack down on rule breakers with tough new monetary penalties and increased judicial penalties;
  • create whistleblower protection for employees who raise safety concerns;
  • require each railway to have an executive legally responsible for safety; and
  • emphasize the central importance of safety management systems.

Rail Safety Week, taking place this year from April 29 to May 5, is a national celebration aimed at increasing awareness of safety around railway operations and highlighting the government's commitment to making the rail system safer for Canadians.

The Government of Canada also supports other initiatives to improve safety at railway crossings, such as Operation Lifesaver — a national public education program whose goal is to reduce the needless loss of life, injuries and damages caused by highway/railway crossing collisions and train/pedestrian incidents.  For more information about Operation Lifesaver and rail safety, visit www.operationlifesaver.ca.

Backgrounders with more information about the GCIP funding and the amendments to the Railway Safety Act are attached.


Backgrounder


GRADE CROSSING IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM (GCIP)

Almost half of all railway-related deaths and injuries in Canada result from accidents at grade crossings. The Government of Canada is committed to reducing the number of these injuries and deaths by working closely with railway companies and road authorities to identify grade crossings that require safety improvements. Through the Government of Canada's Grade Crossing Improvement Program (GCIP), contributions are available for safety improvements at public grade crossings that are under federal jurisdiction.

Through the GCIP, Transport Canada funds up to 50 per cent of safety enhancement costs at many sites across Canada every year.

Some examples of eligible projects are:

  • installing flashing lights, bells and gates;
  • replacing incandescent lights with LEDs;
  • adding gates or extra lights to existing signal systems;
  • interconnecting crossing signals to nearby highway traffic signals;
  • modifying operating circuits within automated warning systems;
  • improving roadway alignment or grades; and
  • modifying nearby intersections and adding traffic control signals in some circumstances.

These sites are most often identified through:

  • an application from a road authority and/or railway company;
  • an inspection by a Transport Canada railway safety inspector, through regular monitoring or after an accident;
  • a recommendation following an accident, including any made by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada; or
  • a complaint concerning the safety of a crossing.

2013-2014 Grade Crossing Improvement Program Funding

Province/Territory Number of Projects Federal Contribution
British Columbia 50 $1,058,730.00
Alberta 79 $2,003,107.30
Saskatchewan 3 $397,074.50
Manitoba 6 $711,935.50
Ontario 258 $3,918,595.06
Quebec 66 $959,891.40
New Brunswick 37 $201,600.00
Nova Scotia 24 $134,400.00
Total 523 $9,385,333.76

April 2013


Backgrounder


THE RAILWAY SAFETY ACT

The Railway Safety Act was implemented in 1989. It sets the regulatory framework for addressing rail safety, security and some of the environmental impacts of rail operations in Canada. While the Railway Safety Act was amended in 1999, since then the Canadian rail industry has changed significantly. Rail operations have become increasingly complex, and rail traffic is growing rapidly. Over the last year, railways moved approximately 72 million passengers and 66 per cent of all surface transportation freight in Canada.

In February 2007, the Minister of Transport launched a full review of the operation and efficiency of the Railway Safety Act through an independent advisory panel. Consultations were conducted in communities across Canada with railway companies and their industry associations, railway customers, municipal, provincial and territorial governments, aboriginal, environmental, and emergency response groups, other federal departments and agencies, and the public. Before finalizing its report (Stronger Ties: A Shared Commitment to Railway Safety), the panel met with a cross-section of stakeholders to determine if there were major objections. Generally, stakeholders were supportive of the recommendations. The findings indicated that the Railway Safety Act is fundamentally sound and that there have been positive efforts to improve rail safety, but more needs to be done. The advisory panel's final report of March 2008 included 56 recommendations for improving rail safety, some of which required legislative changes to the Railway Safety Act.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities also studied rail safety and issued its own report in May 2008. It included 14 additional recommendations, many building on the recommendations from the Railway Safety Act review.

The Government of Canada has addressed the recommendations of both reports and amended the Railway Safety Act to further improve rail safety in Canada.

The amended Railway Safety Act will encourage rail companies to create and maintain a culture of safety and penalize rule breakers by enabling the Government of Canada to:

  • require railway companies to obtain a safety-based Railway Operating Certificate and to submit environmental management plans;
  • crack down on rule breakers with tough new monetary penalties and increased judicial penalties;
  • create whistleblower protection for employees who raise safety concerns;
  • require each railway to have an executive legally responsible for safety; and
  • emphasize the central importance of safety management systems.

The amendments received Royal Assent on May 17, 2012 and will come into force on May 1, 2013.

April 2013

SOURCE Government of Canada



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