Innovation

Innovation is the linchpin of Rail's continued growth and success, and has propelled Rail to a position of leadership across Canada. As the backbone of the transportation system, Rail innovation and its impact on the Canadian economy is fundamental and significant. Visionaries conceived and created Canada's Rail system and their imagination is still very much alive in the fibre of Rail today.

From the early 1870s, when Canadian Rail planner and engineer Sir Sandford Fleming changed time by dividing the Earth into 24 time zones (Standard time) so that everyone in the world can be on roughly similar schedules, to Elijah McCoy's (yes, the real "McCoy") improvement in lubricators for steam engines that used steam pressure to pump oil wherever it was needed and helped keep trains on time, innovation and technology have been at the forefront of the Rail business for more than a century.

Innovation is, and will continue to be, an integral part of the way railways conduct their business. Technological and process innovations help increase system safety, efficiency and reliability. This in turn lowers costs to customers and increases productivity. While these cutting edge innovations bring about tremendous gains throughout the supply chain, there is a need for better cooperation between government and industry stakeholders surrounding how these innovations affect regulation. A closer working relationship, based upon data rich evidence-based policy discussions, is needed in order to ensure that regulations support, rather than inhibit, innovation. Imminent demographic shifts in the rail industry also provide an opportunity to bring in a new generation of technology-oriented recruits and create an even more flexible and innovative workforce for the future.

Innovations can be both technological and process related. For example, using longer trains means increased efficiency in the movement of raw materials for the natural resource sector. This lowers costs, and enhances Canada's ability to compete internationally. Different configurations of trains also reduce wear and tear on rolling stock and rail infrastructure. The subsequent reduction in the need to take track offline for repairs creates, in effect, more capacity on the system and enhances safety.

New digital devices will also allow railways to gather performance and safety information automatically, and assess it in real time to allow for a transition from reactive to preventive maintenance. This also improves consistency and reliability, and improves the effectiveness of new capital investments. However, the rapid implementation of these new technologies has created a need for regulators to catch up to the new ways in which the system operates.

But Rail Innovation is not limited to technology. It extends throughout and is best recognized in the people who work for Rail each day. Through a commitment to education, skill development and best practices, Rail employees are highly skilled, well trained and dedicated.

RAC works constantly to research and develop original thought to engage Governments and communities in progressive dialogue. This innovation, on the edge of change, advances issues that are important to our members.

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

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