Backgrounder Article from  Transport Canada

Proposed Railway Operating Certificate Regulations

Monitoring railways to ensure they meet basic safety requirements

Transport Canada has a robust railway safety program in place and continuously looks for ways to make the railway system safer. Based on recommendations from the Railway Safety Act review, changes were made to the Railway Safety Act that enable the department to further enhance its oversight of railway safety.

The amended Railway Safety Act, which came into effect on May 1, 2013, gives Transport Canada new regulation-making powers. The proposed Railway Operating Certificate Regulations mark a significant milestone in Transport Canada’s accelerated regulatory development activities.

Railway safety oversight

Transport Canada’s oversight program includes monitoring companies to ensure they follow the rules, regulations and engineering standards in place. The department also ensures the overall safety of railway operations through audits and inspections.

Companies are responsible for the safety of their railway infrastructure, equipment and operations. This includes ongoing inspections, testing and maintenance programs in accordance with regulatory requirements, as well as any particular operating and environmental conditions.

Transport Canada is committed to enforcing regulatory requirements and responding to safety issues and threats in a fair, objective and consistent manner. Several factors are considered when deciding on the appropriate enforcement or corrective action for any given situation, including the nature and seriousness of the issue (e.g. the resulting harm or potential harm to life, health, property and the environment).

Should an issue of non-compliance be found, Transport Canada does not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action. Examples of existing enforcement and compliance tools under the Railway Safety Act include:

  • Notices
  • Notices and Orders
  • Ministerial Orders
  • Emergency Directives
  • Prosecutions under Section 41 of the Railway Safety Act
  • Orders of the Court

Oversight under the proposed regulations

Once the proposed regulations come into effect, companies will be required to hold a valid Railway Operating Certificate in order to operate in Canada. If a company is found to have widespread safety problems or chronic issues of non-compliance resulting from a lack of human or financial resources to operate at the highest level of safety, Transport Canada could suspend or cancel the company’s operating certificate. This could put an immediate stop to the company’s railway operations in Canada.

Although suspending or cancelling a Railway Operating Certificate would be a remedy of last resort, the regulations provide Transport Canada with the power to shut down unsafe operations when other compliance-related approaches fail.

March 2014

Related Items

March 14, 2014
News Release - Transport Canada proposes new regulations to strengthen railway safety oversight


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