Transport Canada Allocates C$5.4MM for Rail Resiliency

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor, Railway Age
CN is among the Rail Climate Change Adaptation Program award recipients, and will receive C$300,000 to develop a “Climate-Induced Ground Hazard Risk Assessment Tool.” (Photograph Courtesy of CN via Twitter)

Transport Canada is distributing up to C$5.4 million to 20 infrastructure projects country-wide that it says will make railroads “more resilient to extreme weather risks.”

The Rail Climate Change Adaptation Program is funding “research, development and implementation of innovative technologies, tools, and approaches to better identify and reduce the increasing risks and impacts of climate change on Canada’s rail sector,” such as flooding, fires, permafrost degradation, and more extreme operational temperatures, Transport Canada reported March 2. The funding covers fiscal years 2022/2023-2023/2024.

The 20 projects are:

  1. Agawa Canyon Railroad / Watco, “Northern Ontario Short Line Flood Monitoring Project,” Ontario: This project will use the C$297,209 award to help reduce risks associated with extreme weather conditions on the Agawa Canyon Railroad. It will use specialized flood monitoring technologies at 10 different sites along a 392 kilometer stretch of track. The flood monitors will provide an advance warning system for high-water events that could pose a risk to the integrity of the track bed, enabling proactive intervention.
  2. Big Sky Rail / Mobilgrain, “Bridge Erosion Mitigation and Monitoring,” Saskatchewan: With a C$237,217 award, the project will use laser scanning, drone monitoring and timber condition monitoring for monitoring the structural integrity of Big Sky Rail’s bridges. These monitoring technologies will help to determine areas and rates of deterioration due to rot as a result of rising water levels, runoff and extreme weather, according to Transport Canada.
  3. Canadian Pacific, “Remote Sensing Integration for Geohazard Management,” Ontario, British Columbia: This project will receive C$230,000 to help create a “data-informed risk-based” remote sensing platform to monitor, assess risk, implement preventative action and support mitigation project prioritization, according to Transport Canada.
  4. Canadian Pacific, “Climate Physical Risk Assessment for Canadian Pacific Rail Network,” British Columbia: This project will receive C$300,000 to undertake a pilot study, specifically to design and test a program for evaluating climate risks, using climate data and field observations across 2,700 kilometers of CP’s rail network in British Columbia.
  5. Canadian Pacific, “Development of an Effective Method to Monitor Track Buckling Risk,” Alberta: Using the C$260,000 award, this project aims to develop a risk assessment methodology to evaluate the structural integrity of CP’s track, prior to and following maintenance events that disturb the track structure, such as a tie replacement.
  6. CN, “Washout Hazard Risk Assessment and Monitoring System Deployment,” British Columbia: This project will receive C$300,000 to help reduce the impact of flooding on CN’s rail network by creating a proactive washout (i.e., flooding) risk management system, including a site inventory process, risk management methodology, and an automated risk monitoring system.
  7. CN, Climate-Induced Ground Hazard Risk Assessment Tool,” British Columbia: This project will receive C$300,000 to develop a climate hazard (e.g., landslides, rockfalls, sinking, erosion or snow/ice conditions) risk assessment tool for a section of track in a high-risk area prone to severe weather events that can disrupt rail service, according to Transport Canada. The tool will help monitor hazards in real time and “aid in proactively identifying warning signs of a geohazard for proactive mitigation and faster response time,” the agency said.
  8. Great Sandhills Rail, “Southern Saskatchewan Climate Resiliency Project,” Saskatchewan: This project will receive C$292,105 to conduct geotechnical assessments and excavations, and install “innovative” geotextile technologies to stabilize and improve roadbed drainage along portions of track that are highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change, according to Transport Canada.
  9. Great Western Railway, “Culvert Assessment and Replacement on Great Western Railway,” Saskatchewan: This project seeks to mitigate the risks that torrential rain and flash flooding events pose to culverts along the Great Western Railway’s lines in southwest Saskatchewan. The project will use the C$249,409 award to assess and replace high-priority culverts with newer and more effective designs.
  10. Hudson Bay Railway / Arctic Gateway Group, “Hydrology Incident Prediction and Response System,” Manitoba: With a C$300,000 award, this project will use satellite and drone data to better predict and respond to rail incidents caused by water movement issues, such as atmospheric rivers, plugged culverts, overland flooding and thawing snow/permafrost.
  11. Hudson Bay Railway / Arctic Gateway Group, “An Integral Railway Infrastructure Monitoring Framework to Identify and Mitigate Climate Change Impacts on Permafrost,” Manitoba: This project will receive C$300,000 to develop and employ a Railway Infrastructure Monitoring Framework, which Transport Canada said comprises “innovative track inspection equipment” and various imaging technologies, such as Ground Penetrating Radar and satellite technology to measure ballast/substructure conditions, entrapped ice water occurrences, ground movement, and water levels in proximity to rail embankments.
  12. Last Mountain Railway, “Bridge Erosion Mitigation and Monitoring,” Saskatchewan: With a C$241,177 award, the railway will use monitoring technologies to assess the structural integrity of it bridges and to determine areas and rates of deterioration. “Success of the proposed project will lead to technology advancements in bridge risk monitoring that could be implemented by other Canadian railways or transportation infrastructure owner/operators,” Transport Canada reported.
  13. Northern Lights Rail, “Innovative Soil Stabilization: Bridge Backwall Repair Using Polyurethane Foam on Northern Lights Rail,” Saskatchewan: The proposed project will use the C$76,000 award to replace four damaged bridge backwalls at two different bridge sites using a combination of traditional rock, timber, geotextile and polyurethane materials. The replaced backwalls will be monitored for erosion for a period of 8-9 months via visual inspections.
  14. Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, “Integrating satellite and instrumented hi-rail truck data into current, railway water inspection procedures to improve its effectiveness amidst changing climate conditions,” Ontario: With a C$300,000 award, this project will use remote sensing technologies such as drones, satellite imagery, hi-rail trucks and data analysis to monitor regional water level changes along Ontario Northland’s rail rights-of-way to better assess potential risks to its rail infrastructure.
  15. Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway and Iron Ore Company of Canada / Rio Tinto, “IOC Geohazard Management System Upgrade,” Newfoundland and Labrador; Quebec: This project will put the C$300,000 award toward upgrading Iron Ore Company’s existing geohazard management system for assessing and managing geohazards (e.g., landslides, rockfalls, sinking, erosion, or snow/ice conditions) and ability to analyze climate change related data sources.
  16. Red Coat Road and Rail, “Culvert Assessment and Replacement on Red Coat Rail,” Saskatchewan: This project will receive C$249,409 to assess and replace high-priority culverts with newer and more effective designs. These culverts will be identified using visual inspections and track maintenance records. A secondary visual inspection will also be conducted after a high-precipitation event to form a proactive maintenance plan of the new culvert designs.
  17. Southern Railway of British Columbia, “Water Level Sensor Technology for Remote Monitoring of Flood Risk on Rail Bridges in Southern British Columbia and Improving Bridge Resiliency,” British Columbia: Using the C$298,595 award, this project will install water-level sensors along the rail line to enable remote monitoring of river water levels near rail bridges in the southern British Columbia region. Project data will provide real-time information about the status of water levels, and provide notifications when levels threaten the structural safety of bridges.
  18. Stewart Southern Railway, “Engineering and Trial Placement of Recycled Materials Railway Ties,” Saskatchewan: This project will receive C$293,600 to design, manufacture and implement an alternative railway tie to respond to the decreased availability of standard wood ties, the rising costs associated with acquiring new wood ties, and recycling used wood ties, according to Transport Canada, which noted that the new design uses recycled plastic, will be shipped and installed at test sites, and will be monitored throughout the course of the year to examine durability and placement through four seasons to determine how the ties will perform in different climatic conditions.
  19. Tshiuetin Inc., “Study of Hydraulics and Hydrology of the Entire Tshiuetin Railway Network,” Quebec; Newfoundland and Labrador: This project will receive C$300,000 to perform a flood risk evaluation of its infrastructure, and subsequently develop and implement a maintenance and infrastructure replacement plan. This will include conducting a field survey of existing culverts, and using a digital tool to identify potential improvements to culvert design and/or maintenance practices to improve drainage/water level management.
  20. Tshiuetin Inc., “Fire Risk Research and Risk Elimination Program,” Quebec: This project aims to study fire risk along the length of the track in northern Québec. Using the C$300,000 award, it will develop a fire risk reduction plan, a fire preparedness plan and a protection plan to prevent fire-causing railway activities. High-risk areas will see maintenance work done to reduce risks, and a training plan will be developed to reduce fire risk posed by operational activities, according to Transport Canada.

According to Transport Canada, the Supply Chain Task Force recognized climate change as a “driver of instability in transportation supply chains.” For example, wildfires in July 2021 reduced railway operations by 30%, representing some C$163 million per day in terms of blocked shipment value, the agency reported, and flooding in November 2021 hindered the movement of goods estimated to be more than C$170 million per day due to lost train capacity and increased congestion at the Port of Vancouver. As part of the government of Canada Adaptation Action Plan, the Rail Climate Change Adaptation Program is said to support the goals and objectives of Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy, released for final comment in November 2022.

In a related development, Transport Canada on Feb. 13 reported committing up to C$50 million for projects that improve asset and operations management, coordination, planning, and optimization of supply chains to help alleviate bottlenecks and boost network fluidity and resilience.

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