Government of Canada announces new rail safety legislation
On February 20, 2015, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced new legislation to improve rail safety and the transportation of dangerous goods in Canada.
Key elements of the legislation respond directly to concerns raised by FCM's National Municipal Rail Safety Working Group related to insurance and liability, information sharing and Transport Canada's oversight of federal railways.
Key elements of Bill C-52 include:
- Major reforms to the insurance and third party liability regime for railways and dangerous goods shippers, including higher insurance limits for railways and the creation of a new supplementary fund to be capitalized by a levy on crude oil shippers, with the potential to introduce levies on other dangerous goods shippers in the future;
- Expanded powers for Transport Canada inspectors to address safety concerns including ordering corrective actions when there are concerns about the application of railways' safety management systems; and
- New regulation-making powers that can require railways to share information with municipalities, as requested by FCM.
Bill C-52 is an important step forward in improving the safe transportation of dangerous goods by rail. The changes to insurance requirements for railways and a new levy for crude oil shippers, in particular, will address an important concern of municipalities and prevent the downloading of rail safety and emergency response costs to local taxpayers. FCM will continue to discuss with Transport Canada the need to expand this levy to other dangerous goods shippers in the future.
Government introduces new Grade Crossing Regulations
On December 18, 2014, Transport Canada published new Grade Crossing Regulations for safety management of federally-regulated grade crossings. These regulations:
- define roles and responsibilities for both municipalities and railways; and
- establish enforceable safety standards for new and existing federally-regulated grade crossings.
Consulted extensively by Transport Canada during the development of these regulations, FCM advocated the importance of ensuring timelines and technical requirements related to information sharing and improvements to existing crossings would be fair and reasonable for municipalities.
The Grade Crossing Regulations come into force immediately and apply in full to new or modified grade crossings. Municipalities and railways will have two years to share critical safety information regarding existing crossings, and seven years to ensure existing crossings meet basic safety requirements.
FCM will continue to engage Transport Canada over the coming months to ensure municipalities are provided with more detailed guidance on implementation issues including:
- information sharing;
- options for maintaining sightlines;
- obstruction of grade crossings; and
- the Canadian Transportation Agency's role in dispute resolution and cost apportionment.
Transportation Safety Board releases its final report
On August 19, 2014, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its final report of the investigation into the derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train on July 6, 2013, in Lac-Mégantic, Québec. The TSB's report includes a series of recommendations that are critical to improving rail safety in Canada and ensuring the safe transportation of dangerous goods by rail.
FCM President Brad Woodside issued the following statement regarding the announcement:
"The recommendations announced today by the Transportation Safety Board are critical to improving the safety of Canada's rail system and the movement of dangerous goods by rail through our cities and communities.
We expect the federal government to respond fully to today's report and recommendations, to ensure an event like this never happens again.
FCM and the National Municipal Working Group on Rail Safety will provide input directly to Transport Canada on the TSB's recommendations, and we look forward to continue working together to keep our railways and the communities that surround them safe."