The government of Canada has made a CA$9.3-million (US$9.2 million) commitment to improve railway crossings, as it celebrates Rail Safety Week.
“A safe and secure national rail transportation system is important to local communities and to Canada’s economic well-being,” said the Honorable Steven Fletcher, minister of state (Transport). “While Canada has one of the safest rail systems in the world, improvements can still be made. “New funding will enhance safety for pedestrians and motorists at 523 locations across the country and help to save lives.”
Almost half of all railway-related deaths and injuries result from accidents at crossings. The government of Canada is committed to reducing the number of these accidents by working closely with railway companies and communities to identify grade crossings that require safety improvements. Studies reveal that accident rates fall by up to 69 percent and fatality rates by up to 80 percent after grade crossing improvements are completed.
Through the government of Canada’s Grade Crossing Improvement Program, eligible railway crossings are upgraded or relocated based on factors such as traffic volume and accident history. Improvements may include installing flashing lights and bells, installing gate barriers, linking crossing signals to traffic signals or adding new circuits or timing devices. Transport Canada finances up to half of the total eligible costs of grade crossing improvements, with the balance provided by the railways and road authorities.
The government of Canada has also made amendments to the Railway Safety Act. These amendments, which will begin on May 1, 2013, will encourage rail companies to create and maintain a culture of safety and penalize rule breakers by enabling the government of Canada to:
• Require railway companies to obtain a safety-based Railway Operating Certificate and to submit environmental management plans.
• Crack down on rule breakers with tough new monetary penalties and increased judicial penalties.
• Create whistleblower protection for employees who raise safety concerns.
• Require each railway to have an executive legally responsible for safety.
• Emphasize the central importance of safety management systems.