Rail Facts

Canada’s railway sector is globally competitive, sustainable, and most importantly, safe. Working closely with customers and communities, Canadian railways move 75 million people and more than 70 per cent of all intercity surface goods in Canada each year, relieving road congestion and limiting harmful emissions. 

Powering the Economy

  • Canada's railway network is the fifth largest in the world.
  • Canada’s railways handle the fourth largest volume of goods in the world.
  • Canada’s railways move roughly half of Canada’s exports (by volume)
  • Private railway companies in Canada are owned directly by tens of thousands of investors – including thousands of railway employees – and indirectly by millions of ordinary Canadians, through savings and pension plans.
  • Canada’s railways paid more than $777 million in fuel, property, sales and other forms of taxes in 2012.
  • Canadian railway companies pay $2.9 billion annually in wages and benefits.
  • In 2012, Canada's railways invested $1.8 billion in new capital programs to support growth and service improvements.

Helping Protect The Environment

  • Canada's railways conserve fuel, limit emissions and relieve highway congestion. One train, on average, moves the same amount of freight as 280 big trucks.
  • Canada’s transportation sector generates 27 per cent of our country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – however railways produce just 4 per cent of that total, and less than 1 per cent of our country’s overall GHG emissions.

Employing Canadians

  • Canada’s railways employ 34,000 people and support an additional 60,000 direct and indirect jobs in the railway supply industry.
  • With average annual earnings of $82,883, railway employees are among the highest paid in Canadian industry.

Safe and Secure

  • Rail provides by far the safest means of ground transportation in Canada:
    • 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 Operation Lifesaver, an initiative that is co-funded by the RAC and Transport Canada, Canada’s railways are engaged in public information and education campaigns to reduce crossing and trespassing incidents.
  • Through the Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response (TRANSCAER®) initiative, RAC works with municipalities, emergency responders and residents in communities along transportation routes, to make sure they are informed about the products being moved through their area, and are prepared to respond to potential incidents involving dangerous goods. 
    • 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

Canada’s railways apply a number of innovative technologies to improve safety, and operational and fuel efficiency:
  • LED (light-emitting diode) technology and retro-reflective material to make railway crossing lights and warning signs more visible from further distances.
  • Strobe-light effects when trains are using crossings.
  • Digital technologies such as electronic data interchange (EDI), Internet applications and wireless communications to allow customers to place orders, check prices, trace cars, request plant switches, check bills, and perform various other functions in real-time.
  • Advanced security gamma-ray technology at borders to allow 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 as a train passes, to reduce friction, noise, wear and energy consumption.

©2015 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 >