Safe and Secure

Canada's railways run an average of 1,100 passenger and goods trains every day, over rugged terrain and in some of the world's worst weather conditions. Despite that, they have the best safety record in North America and provide by far the safest means of ground transportation in Canada.

Safety Regulation
Rail safety is highly regulated in Canada. Transport Canada (TC) has regulatory oversight over the sector, and rigorously enforces legislationrules and regulations, such as those related to train securement, speed limits, and track and equipment inspection and maintenance. All incidents are reported to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

Amendments to the Railway Safety Act in 1999 required railways to implement Safety Management Systems (SMS) to integrate safety into their day-to-day operations. SMS did not replace or lessen any existing safety rules or regulations, nor did it reduce Transport Canada’s oversight in any way. In fact, SMS represents an additional layer of regulation through which railways must focus on risk management and safety performance.

SMS added new requirements for railways to:
- Ensure that they have safety targets and report results to Transport Canada;
- Develop processes to ensure employees are aware of regulations;
- Maintain policies beyond minimum requirements;
- Measure, monitor, and track hazards and defects;
- Solicit employee input; and 
- Mitigate hazards to reduce or eliminate risks.

Rail Safety
The safety performance of Canada’s railways has steadily improved over the past decade. While the freight railway sector moved a record 529.6 billion gross ton-miles (BGTM) in 2013, its accident rate was 2.17 accidents/BGTM.

The accident rate for passenger railways is determined by calculating the number of accidents per million intercity, tourist, and commuter passengers. The number of accidents per million passengers declined to 0.68 in 2013 from 0.70 the previous year. This was the lowest passenger accident rate to date and 27 per cent lower than the five-year average.

Railway safety performance data is collected by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) and the RAC. The TSB maintains a database of safety performance statistics on federally-regulated railways, and the RAC collects similar statistics on provincially-regulated operations. The TSB’s database is available at .

Railway Crossing and Trespassing Accidents
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.

Since 1980, the number of crossing collisions in Canada – where a train and motor vehicle collide – has fallen dramatically. While this reduction speaks to the success of safety efforts undertaken in that time, there is still unnecessary injury and loss of life. In 2013, crossing accidents increased by 4.0 per cent from the previous year, and edged up by 0.6 per cent from the 2008-2012 average. Conversely, trespasser accidents dropped by 17.3 per cent, year-over-year, and by 19.9 per cent from the five-year average.

Rail Security
In order to enhance the security of Canada’s railways, Transport Canada, the Railway Association of Canada and its members signed an agreement on security in 1997. A revised Memorandum of Understanding on Railway Security (MOU) was signed in 2007.

Under the MOU, operators are required to:

  • develop and maintain risk-based security plans;
  • conduct exercises to fully test the emergency portions of their security plans;
  • provide employees with security training and awareness;
  • report security incidents;
  • maintain records (e.g. on security training); and
  • identify at least one person with whom the Minister of Transport may share security intelligence.

This MOU aims to strengthen rail operators’ ability to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from a security incident.



Media contacts:
Alex Paterson
Public Affairs Coordinator
Telephone: (613) 564-8111

Sarah Mayes
Director, Public Affairs
(613) 564-8097

Connect with the RAC

Rail safety resources

President’s message: Canada’s railways are on track with safety improvements

: Railway industry safety measures since Lac-Mégantic.

Infographic: Rail safety in Canada.


©2016 The Railway Association of Canada. All rights reserved.

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