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RAC President Michael Bourque responds to The Hill Times op-ed

RAC President and CEO Michael Bourque today responded to an op-ed that appeared last week in The Hill Times. The letter to the editor appears in the Feb. 8 print edition of The Hill Times and online. Read the letter below.

Re: “Oil by rail: have the lessons of Lac-Mégantic been learned? No,” (The Hill Times, Feb. 1, p. 11). 

Bruce Campbell asks a fair question in his Hill Times op-ed. However, his answer is based on false information and so it follows that his conclusion is wrong.

First, Canada’s railway industry advocated vigorously and successfully for a higher-standard tank car to replace the DOT-111. We don’t have to wait until 2025 and are already seeing these tank cars in service today.

Second, railways are not permitted to operate trains with a single operator if they are moving dangerous goods.

Mr. Campbell is also wrong to suggest Canada’s railways are self-regulated. Railways in Canada must comply with the Railway Safety Act, dozens of regulations and hundreds of safety rules as part of Canada’s regulatory system. These rules have the full force of regulation and government inspectors have numerous enforcement tools at their disposal. Safety Management Systems (SMS) are an effective additional line of defence, as demonstrated by rail’s safety record since SMS regulations were introduced in 2001. Between 2004 and 2014, the freight sector’s accident rate – accidents in relation to workload – dropped by almost 50 per cent, even as railways transported more goods.

In May 2015, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said it was “encouraged by the action taken to improve safety in the rail industry,” after seven of its recommendations received the highest rating of Fully Satisfactory. The TSB has also assessed all active Watchlist recommendations as Satisfactory Intent, indicating that the industry has made meaningful progress in these areas. Today, our industry’s success rate at clearing TSB recommendations stands at close to 90 per cent – tops among all transportation modes.

In the last three years, the rail industry and Transport Canada have taken concrete steps to improve rail safety. These actions address the concerns Mr. Campbell raises and other areas of rail safety including transparency, training and emergency response. Canada’s railways continue to make significant investments – more than $1.8 billion in Canada in 2014 alone – to ensure the safety of their infrastructure.

We learned from Lac-Mégantic, and continue to drive towards our goal of zero accidents.

Michael Bourque
President & CEO
Railway Association of Canada

*Published Feb. 8, 2016 on The Hill Times online



Alex Paterson
Railway Association of Canada

About the Railway Association of Canada

The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) represents more than 50 freight and passenger railway companies that move 75 million people and $280 billion worth of goods in Canada annually. 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. Learn more at railcandev.wpengine.com. Connect with us on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.