Backgrounder Article from  Transport Canada

Strengthening procedures to ensure the safe transportation of dangerous goods

Requiring railway companies to slow trains transporting dangerous goods and introduce other key operating procedures

Canada has a strong regulatory regime for trains travelling in both rural and urban areas. For trains transporting dangerous goods, Transport Canada is introducing new, stricter requirements to safeguard the communities along our railway lines.

The Canadian railway network does not provide as many route options as the U.S. system, which makes it impossible to find alternative railway tracks to transport dangerous goods. As these existing routes pass through Canadian municipalities, Transport Canada is enhancing risk analysis and speed and infrastructure criteria for trains carrying dangerous goods.

New Emergency Directive

What is an Emergency Directive?

Under the authority of the Railway Safety Act, if the Minister is of the opinion that an immediate threat to safe railway operations exists, the Minister may issue an Emergency Directive ordering a railway company to stop the unsafe activity or take specific action to address the threat.

The Directive may remain in effect for up to six months and may be renewed for an additional six months. Non-compliance with the Emergency Directive is an offence under subsection 41(2) of the Railway Safety Act and can lead to prosecution.

Under Section 33 of the Railway Safety Act, Transport Canada issued an Emergency Directive that requires railway companies to immediately implement key operating practices that respond to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s recommendation. This includes reducing the speed of trains transporting dangerous goods. Transport Canada worked with the Railway Association of Canada to refine key elements of the Emergency Directive, which is largely based on the U.S. OT-55-N Circular, Recommended Railroad Operating Practices for Transportation of Hazardous Materials, and a recently signed Memorandum of Cooperation between the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Association of American Railroads.

The Emergency Directive will take immediate effect and remain in place for a minimum of six months. The department issued an Emergency Directive because it is the most efficient way to immediately address important safety enhancements and require railway companies to make operational changes quickly.

New Ministerial Order

Under Section 19 of the Railway Safety Act, Transport Canada also issued a Ministerial Order that requires railway companies transporting dangerous goods to develop new permanent rules on operating practices.  

Railway companies will have 180 days to submit the rules to Transport Canada for approval. The department will review the rules to promote the safe transportation of dangerous goods by rail.

April 2014

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