Transport Canada has approved modifications to some of the rules governing freight rail switching operations so that operations are “as safe as possible for railway employees and for people living close to railway lines.”

The federal agency, working with the rail industry, made some “necessary” updates to rules, regulations and standards pertaining to the safety of Canada’s railway system, Transport Canada said Friday. These updates aim to reduce the number of uncontrolled movements of railway equipment. The updates are also in response to recommendations made in the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s Watchlist, as well as to findings in the Auditor General’s February 2021 follow-up audit on rail safety, the agency said.

The changes now prescribe:

“When air brakes must be used during switching operations (i.e. process of rearranging rail cars in a train yard) to ensure a consistent approach across the railway system;
“Measures to ensure that stationary equipment is secured during switching operations to prevent uncontrolled movements; and
“Speed restrictions when switching is conducted with a remotely controlled locomotive.”

Transport Canada had issued a ministerial order last September, which called on the railway industry to “adopt new practices designed to improve safety and prevent uncontrolled movement while conducting switching operations, and to ensure that equipment is properly secured while switching,” the agency said.

“Maintaining a safe, efficient and reliable rail system is key to the continued success of Canada’s economy. Transport Canada continues working to modernize its rail safety oversight and to directly address key safety risks facing Canada’s rail network,” said Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra.

Transport Canada said it conducts more than 35,000 inspections every year as part of its oversight authority and to ensure parties are complying with the Rail Safety Act. 

Subscribe to FreightWaves’ e-newsletters and get the latest insights on freight right in your inbox.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

Related links:

Transport Canada restricts train speeds in British Columbia

Canada issues orders to prevent parked rolling stock from rolling

Canadian government revises freight rail safety rules