With more than 44,000 kilometres of tracks across the country, rail safety is a critical issue in Canada. According to Operation Safety Canada, in 2016 there were 69 railway accidents, 16 serious injuries, and 12 fatalities along our railways. While this marks a significant improvement over the previous two years, I know that does not ease the pain of the families and victims affected. In Parkdale-High Park, where we are bordered by three rail lines, rail safety is a critical issue. I have met with residents and community organizations on creating a safe environment, and I understand that we need to take action and find solutions.
During Rail Safety Week 2017, we remember the lives and families that have been forever changed because of railway accidents. In my role as a Member of Parliament and as a community member, I am focused on finding new ways to improve rail safety and protect lives.
I am proud to report that there are currently a number of initiatives being undertaken by our Government, including the Rail Safety Improvement Program, Transport 2030 Plan, National Trade Corridors Fund, and investments from Budget 2017 to ensure proper maintenance of our transportation systems.
Today, the Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced $20 million from the Government’s Rail Safety Improvement Program (RSIP) 131 new projects and initiatives to address rail safety issues, including renewed support for Operation Lifesaver.
The RSIP provides grant and contribution $55 million over three years in funding to improve rail safety in the form of grants or contributions. The aim of this funding is to reduce injuries and fatalities related to our rail transportation. Initiatives eligible for this program include:
- safety improvements to existing rail lines
- closures of grade crossings
- Initiatives to raise awareness about rail safety issues
RSIP builds on existing initiatives such as Transport Canada’s Grade Crossing Improvement, Grade Crossing Closure (GCCP), and Operation Lifesaver Programs. The Grade Crossing initiatives aim to improve crossings where a road or path crosses railway tracks at the same level. Under the GCCP, funding is available to encourage closing certain grade crossings that are under federal jurisdiction, in the interest of public safety.
The RSIP has two components:
- Infrastructure, Technology and Research (ITR) Component: provides funds for projects to address immediate rail safety needs
- Public Education and Awareness (E&A) Component: provides funds for public education projects aimed at reducing collisions and trespassing incidents on railways
Applications are closed for this year, and our Government is currently accepting applications for 2018-19 until August 1, 2017. If you have a great idea for an initiative or program, we want to hear from you.
On November 3, 2016, we announced the Transport 2030 Plan – a plan to deliver on the commitment to create a safe, secure, green, innovative, and integrated transportation system. The goal is to establish a system that balances growth and a cleaner environment, while always maintaining support for the well-being of Canadians.
Specifically, the plan highlights the performance and reliability of our transportation system, including rail transport. When trains and railways run efficiently, we reduce opportunities for accidents. Among many key components, Transport 2030 will invest $10.1 billion for transportation infrastructure to help eliminate bottlenecks and build better trade corridors and improve performance and reliability.
In Budget 2016, we invested $143 million over three years on a cash basis to sustain existing measures and support new and expanded activities related to rail safety and the transportation of dangerous goods.
With the National Trade Corridors Fund, we are building on the commitment to address urgent capacity constraints and freight bottlenecks at major ports of entry. Investments will target congestion and inefficiencies across Canada, and along the busiest rail and highway corridors around the Greater Toronto Area. Budget 2017 includes our commitment to provide $2 billion over 11 years to support the Fund’s activities. At least an additional $5 billion will be provided through the Canada Infrastructure Bank to address trade and transportation priorities.
Additional investment in Budget 2017 includes $16.4 million over five years to Transport Canada to ensure proper maintenance and repairs to federally managed roads, bridges, rail systems, and ports, so that they are able to withstand the effects of natural disasters, climate change, and extreme weather. We are proactively ensuring these transport systems, especially railways, are properly taken care of to reduce the potential for accidents.
In addition to the programs and investments our Government is making in transportation and rail safety, Transport Canada has a strong and specific mandate to protect Canadians. The mandate includes:
- Identify and address safety risks through safety management systems, such as video and audio recorders. This will respond to one of the recommendations that followed from the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic;
- We are accelerating the phasing out the DOT-111 cars, the type that was involved in the Lac-Mégantic disaster, for TC-117 cars that have better thermal protection and are better able to withstand damage;
- Build stronger tank cars for dangerous goods; and
- Verify railway companies meet basic safety standards and have a railway operating certificate.
Transport Canada has also increased the number of Railway Safety Inspectors from coast-to-coast. Every year, the ministry conducts about 33,000 audits and inspections of grade crossings, locomotives, freight and passenger cars, tracks, and train crews.
There is a lot underway, but a lot more still needs to be done. I am always eager to hear from you directly about rail safety and how we can do better!
MP for Parkdale-High Park
Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism