Rail Facts

Rail is an innovative leader and the most environmentally efficient, safe and secure mode of ground transportation that moves the Canadian economy. Working closely with customers and communities, Rail moves over 74 million people and more than 70 per cent of total Canadian non-local surface goods every year, relieving road congestion and limiting harmful emissions.

Powering the Economy

  • Canada's railway network is the fifth largest in the world.
  • Rail in Canada handles the fourth largest volume of goods in the world.
  • Two thirds of Canada's Rail traffic moves trans-border and overseas trade.
  • Rail is a significant contributor to Canada's balance of payment gains from the movement of imports from third countries through Canadian ports into the United States by Rail.
  • Private Rail companies in Canada are owned directly by tens of thousands of investors, including thousands of their own employees, and indirectly by millions of ordinary Canadians through savings and pension plans.
  • Rail paid more than $777 million in fuel, property taxes, sales and other forms of taxes in 2012.
  • Rail pays $2.9 billion annually in wages and benefits.
  • In 2012, Canada's Rail businesses invested $1.8 billion, up 14.1 per cent from the five-year average, in new capital programs to support growth and service improvements.
  • On a tonnage basis, 50 per cent of Canada's exports rely on Rail transportation.

Helping Protect The Environment

  • Canada's railways conserve fuel, are environmentally friendly and reduce highway congestion. One train, on average, moves the same tonnage of freight as 280 big trucks.
  • Trains use a privately owned and financed right of way which is maintained and expanded to the tune of $1.8 billion in 2012 and on which rail operators paid $158 million in property taxes; trucks use a taxpayer funded roads.
  • The overall transportation sector generates 27 per cent of Canada's GHGs, however, Rail produces only 3.5 per cent of this total and less than 1 per cent of Canada's overall GHG emissions.

Employing Canadians

  • Rail employs roughly 34,000 people and supports an additional 60,000 direct and indirect Rail supplier jobs.
  • Approximately two million people work in businesses that rely on Rail to provide a growing, safe, reliable and environmentally sustainable network.
  • With average annual earnings of $82,883, Rail employees are among the highest-paid in Canadian industry.

Safe, Secure and Getting Safer

  • Rail provides by far the safest means of ground transportation in Canada, as officially measured by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.  
  • Canadian Rail is the safest in North America:
    • While the freight rail sector moved a record 503.9 billion gross ton-miles (BGTM) in 2012, its accident rate fell to 2.1 accidents/BGTM, down from 2.2 in 2011.
    • Accidents at railway crossings declined by 8.8 per cent from the five-year average in 2012
    • In 2012, trespasser accidents and fatalities fell 16.1 per cent and 7.9 per cent, respectively, from the five-year average
  • Through the RAC, Rail companies in Canada are engaged in highly successful public information and education campaigns to reduce the number of crossing and trespassing incidents (Operation Lifesaver).
  • Through the Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response (TRANSCAER®) initiative, the RAC works with communities to ensure municipal emergency planners and responders are properly trained to work with industry experts and qualified contractors in developing effective and realistic emergency response plans.
    • The RAC’s Dangerous Goods Team delivered 79 TRANSCAER® sessions to some 1,100 participants in 2012, and has conducted an average of 70 sessions per year since 2000.

Innovation, Making a Difference

  • Canadian rail innovates and applies a number of different technologies for added safety, operational improvements and fuel efficiency.  
  • LED (Light emitting diode) technology to make railway crossing lights more visible from farther distances.
  • Retro-reflective material to make warning signage more visible when no railcar is present, and a strobe-light effect when a train is using the crossing.
  • Digital technologies such as EDI, Internet applications and wireless communications that allow customers to place orders, check prices, trace cars, request plant switches, check bills, and perform various other functions in real-time.
  • Advanced security x-ray technology at the border that allows customs officials to see the contents of cars.
  • "Low idle" and automatic stop/start systems to increase fuel efficiency.
  • Rail lubrication technology that deposits a thin bead of lubricant on the rail when a train passes to reduce friction, noise, wear and energy consumption.



©2014 The Railway Association of Canada. All rights reserved.

Rail Trends

The Railway Association of Canada's Rail Trends provides a ten-year composite of financial and operating statistics for a comprehensive review of the business of transporting goods and people by rail in Canada. This review covers virtually all interveners of rail - the Class 1s, regional freight companies, short lines, intercity passenger, commuter and tourist train... MORE >