Federal Government Addresses Rail Safety Concerns

In response to community concerns about rail safety, the federal Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt announced a new measure requiring railway companies to share dangerous goods information with municipal first responders and emergency planners.

The announcement directly responds to the priority areas raised by FCM's National Municipal Rail Safety Working group that had been established in response to the recent rail accidents this past summer.   FCM President Claude Dauphin responded positively to the announcement in his statement indicating that it sends a clear message that the federal government fully agrees that local governments need to know the basic information about dangerous goods being transported through their communities.

The new measure will take effect immediately and require:

  • All Canadian railway operators to provide municipal emergency planners and first responders with annual information on the nature and volume of dangerous goods being transported through their communities;
  • Large Canadian railway companies, such as Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP) will be required to include in their annual reports a quarterly breakdown of the nature and volume of dangerous goods shipped through Canadian communities;
  • Smaller railways will be required to notify municipalities of any significant changes to the information provided in their annual reporting.

Those local governments interested in receiving the information need to provide the name and contact information of their designated Emergency Planning Official following the instructions provided in Protective Direction No. 32. No information will be provided unless a municipality opts in and identifies a designate.

This announcement follows an earlier federal announcement, in October, in response to a recommendation from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada for railways to review the classification of crude oil products shipped by rail. They have also committed to further targeted action, including requiring railways and shippers to carry additional insurance.

UBCM would like to thank all of the BC communities that responded to our request for feedback as this assisted FCM in its work to bring these measures forward.    In terms of next steps, FCM will be providing further guidance concerning the implementation of this new measure, including the timing of the first annual report to local governments. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Daniel Rubinstein, Senior Policy Advisor at FCM.

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