Prime Minister Stephen Harper government today launched Rail Safety Week with new funding to improve railway crossings.
This year, Transport Canada will provide more than CA$9.2 million (US$8.34 million) for improvements at more than 600 railway crossings across the country through its Grade Crossing Improvement Program (GCIP). Under the GCIP, eligible railway crossings are upgraded 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, upgrading light bulbs to brighter LED lights or adding new circuits or timing devices. Transport Canada finances up to 50 percent of the total eligible costs of grade crossing improvements (to a maximum of CA$550,000 (US$498,700) per project), with the balance provided by the railways and/or road authorities.
Through the Grade Crossing Closure Program (GCCP), funding is available to encourage the closure of certain grade crossings that are under federal jurisdiction. The program provides a CA$20,000 (US$18,000) grant for a public grade crossing and a CA$5,000 (US$4,500) grant for a private grade crossing in exchange for the beneficiary (generally a road authority or private property owner) relinquishing their rights to the crossing and closing it. In 2013-14, Transport Canada approved CA$100,000 (US$90,000) in GCCP funding to close 11 crossings in the interest of public safety.
Canadian National is marking Rail Safety Week with a public awareness campaign stressing the deadly risks of trespassing on railway tracks and property.
In 2013, Canada had 58 trespasser accidents that resulted in 44 fatalities and 10 serious injuries. The proportion of trespasser accidents that were fatal (76 percent) was up compared to the five-year average of 66 percent.
“We will not tolerate that individuals put their lives and those of others at risk,” said CN Police Chief Stephen Covey. “Too many people die from injuries sustained while trespassing on railway property in Canada and those fatalities are avoidable. The railway is not a safe place for children to play and it is not safe for adults to take short cuts across it. It is important to remember that when you see tracks, think trains.”
Crossing accidents represented another serious type of rail incidents in 2013, with 20 percent of these accidents resulting in either serious or fatal injuries. There were 188 crossing accidents in Canada in 2013, consistent with the average of the past five years.
CN Police will be out in full force during Rail Safety Week, conducting safety initiatives at commuter stations, CN intermodal terminals and railway crossings in Canada and the United States. CN will visit commuter stations to target a larger audience of rail users, particularly parents who will be urged to pass on safety information to their children.
CN Police work year-round to reduce trespassing and crossing incidents, fatalities and injuries by identifying the highest risk areas and develop targeted strategies to reduce incidents.