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Rail Trends 2021: An Unprecedented Year

OTTAWA – December 23, 2021 – Today, the Railway Association of Canada (RAC) released the 29th edition of the Rail Trends report – showcasing the performance of Canadian railways over the 2011 to 2020 period. “2020 was a year like no other” explains Marc Brazeau, President and CEO of the RAC. “While these were unprecedented times, railways from coast to coast showed resiliency by managing the volatility presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. This proves that the rail industry is strong and will continue to be the backbone of Canada’s economy”.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented impacts on human health, workers, businesses, and governments in Canada and around the world. But one thing did not change, and that was the perseverance of Canadian railways, which continued to deliver services to the industries, communities, and passengers that depend on them from coast to coast.

Freight railways operated efficiently under evolving restrictions, protecting employee health while delivering essentials such as energy products, personal protective equipment, medicines, vaccines, and agricultural and food products. On the passenger side, intercity and commuter railways kept trains running, providing essential transportation services to Canadians. Unfortunately, restrictions caused many tourism railways to cancel their 2020 operations altogether.

However, our industry remained resilient and continued to chug along all while promoting the pillars of the RightTrack. When it comes to safety, the freight accident rate improved by 15.1% to 1.82 accidents per billion gross ton-miles. Moreover, the dangerous goods accident rate improved by 35.6% to 0.17 accidents per 1,000 dangerous goods carloads, which is the lowest rate in the past decade. In terms of sustainability, the freight fuel efficiency improved by 4.3% to 223 revenue tonne-kilometres per litre, the best on record. Lastly, when it comes to innovation and growth, railways invested $2.6 billion into Canadian infrastructure, machinery & equipment, and state-of-the-art technologies. This level of investment is the second highest on record, behind $3.1B in 2019. RAC members contributed $1.9 billion in various taxes to Canadian governments.

The full Rail Trends report is available here. Data for 2021 will be covered in next year’s report.


About the Railway Association of Canada
The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) represents close to 60 freight and passenger railway companies that transport tens of millions of passengers and approximately $320 billion worth of goods in Canada each year. 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 www.railcan.ca.

Data Contact:
Jonathan Thibault
Manager, Economics, Data and Research

Media Contact:
Stéphanie Montreuil
Senior Director, Communications and Media Relations, Railway Association of Canada