About RAC

The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) represents more than 50 freight and passenger railway companies that move 75 million people and $250 billion worth of goods in Canada each year. As the voice of Canada’s railway industry, RAC advocates on behalf of its members and associate members to ensure that the rail sector remains globally competitive, sustainable, and most importantly, safe.

RAC is proud to have tourist, passenger, commuter, short line and regional railways, and Class 1 freight railways among its members. In total, members operate approximately 60,000 km of main line track (RAC: Rail Trends 2015), including operating rights.

The Canadian Railway War Board was formed at a meeting of railway executives on October 23, 1917, at the suggestion of the Canadian Government, for the purpose of coordinating railway activities during World War I, to ensure efficient movement of troops, war supplies and services. Having proved to be an effective organization, the Railway Association of Canada (RAC) was officially established in 1919 and was formally incorporated in 1953. From 1917 to 2000, RAC dealt primarily with member services and safety and operations activities at the national level and coordination of standards with the Association of American Railroads on a continental basis. The deregulation of railways in 1987 led to the establishment of approximately 50 short line and regional railways.

At the start of the new millennium, RAC received a new mandate from its Board of Directors to include an expanded role in the fields of policy and advocacy, on behalf of its member railways.

It is an exciting time for the Rail sector. This mode, perhaps the one most taken for granted in Canada, has undergone a remarkable metamorphosis. Historically, Rail received considerable public subsidy and was highly regulated. Beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a progressive increase in government and public awareness of the over-regulation of the industry and of the need to introduce more market forces in order to encourage self-sufficiency, competitiveness and efficiency. This awareness has been reflected in public policy changes to help facilitate market mechanisms conducive to private sector investment and to free management to establish a highly efficient, privately funded network stretching throughout this vast continent.

A combination of changes in regulations, i.e., National Transportation Act (1987) and Canada Transportation Act (1996), resulted in the cancellation of explicit transportation subsidies, the privatization of CN Railway (1995) and the devolution of airports, marine ports and air navigation systems. These changes, coupled with NAFTA (1994), have opened the way for Rail to take its rightful place in Canada's transportation sector. There is a new strategic approach. The trunk line component, formerly concentrated on an east-west axis, has now become continental, with a strong and vibrant north/south focus. This framework is successfully fed by a dynamic short line and regional railway component that is an entrepreneurial, flexible, well-managed and customer-focused sector. This symbiosis has created the best Rail system in both North America and the world.

Rail in this country has responded to competitive challenges with vigour and the achievements speak for themselves. Canada has some of the most successful railways in the world - critical to the competitiveness of Canadian industry and, by extension, the standard of living of all Canadians. As can be seen throughout this website, there are numerous and significant concrete examples of our world class successes.

The Canada Transportation Act (1996) recognizes transportation "as a key to regional economic development". Short line and regional railways represent those which "feed into and take away from" high volume, trunk-line railways.

Between 1996 and 1999, CN and CPR transferred more than 8,500 km of rail line to short line operators, over 80 percent of the total identified for discontinuance over that period.  

Short lines play a fundamental role in the industry as it provides a direct link to the Class 1 networks for shippers on branch lines. The traffic is collected by the short lines and generally interchanged with its main line partners who, on average, move the long haul, high volume traffic five times further to destination. They are highly customer focused and strive, in conjunction with their Class 1 partners, to provide seamless transportation service from points of origin to destination. Short lines originated 23 per cent of the carloads in 2010.

The success story is the excellent 'fit' between the long haul, high efficiency of Class 1s and the local customer service and logistics capabilities of the short lines. To find out more, please click here.

This story is impressive, but more is possible. Canadian Rail is building on its recent gains to make an important contribution to Canada's future prosperity by assisting governments in achieving their public policy objectives.  A partnership between the industry and governments is the preferred approach in achieving objectives that mutually benefit the Rail and Canadians. Rail has identified the following policy areas where it can assist:  economic competitiveness, integration of the multi-modal transportation system, land use planning, highway and urban congestion, environment and public safety. 

©2017 The Railway Association of Canada. All rights reserved.

Interchange Magazine

Our quarterly magazine, Interchange, provides an in-depth perspective on the vast array of critically important issues facing our more than 50 freight and passenger railways and is an important link to our suppliers, customers, related industry associations, friends, allies, government officials and community leaders. We invite you to explore the newly designed RAC Interchange Magazine... MORE >