Canada takes steps to prevent punishment from extreme weather, fire events on the rails

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
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Canada believes more needs to be done to keep the rails safe during fire and extreme weather events.

Transport Canada is taking action to further improve the safety and security of Canada’s rail system, especially in light of the impacts of climate change and severe weather on railway operations.

Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra announced two new rail safety measures. One focuses on railway-related fire prevention, while the other improves the resiliency of Canada’s railway infrastructure against climate change impacts, such as flooding, landslides, and fire risks.

To help prevent fires on railway property and in nearby communities, Transport Canada is introducing these measures as part of broader federal government efforts on climate change adaptation by creating new rules for the fire season (April 1 to Oct. 31). These new rules require railway companies to:

  • Reduce train speeds and conduct additional track inspections when temperatures are high to reduce the risk of a derailment caused by track conditions;
  • Inspect locomotive exhaust systems more frequently to ensure they are free of any deposits that could pose a fire risk; and
  • Implement a fire risk reduction plan.

The fire risk reduction plan is robust and requires companies to monitor fire risk levels, manage vegetation, reduce activities that could spark fires, and respond to detected fires. Companies also must engage local governments and Indigenous communities on their plans. Similar to other critical sectors of Canada’s economy, risk monitoring and preventive measures are important steps towards a comprehensive national adaptation strategy.

“In a period where we are seeing the impacts of climate change and extreme weather in Canada, it’s important that we do everything we can to mitigate future risks,” said Alghabra. “Our new rules will protect our railways against wildfires in the context of extreme weather. At the same time, the new Rail Climate Change Adaption Program will help railways assess and adopt next generation tools to mitigate adverse issues caused by climate change.”

Transport Canada also is announcing the Rail Climate Change Adaptation Program. Its objective is to support research, development, and implementation of innovative technologies, tools, and approaches to better understand and address the increasing risks and impacts of climate change on Canada’s rail sector.

The Rail Climate Change Adaptation Program will provide up to $2.2 million in contribution funding to Canadian railways to cost-share research. Project submissions from eligible railways will be accepted until Sept. 28, 2022.

Collectively, the new rules and the program are two innovative, on-the-ground adaptation measures that show concrete actions Canada is taking today to build climate resiliency as efforts continue on developing Canada’s first National Adaptation Strategy.

The National Adaptation Strategy will establish a framework for action on how to improve health and well-being, build and maintain infrastructure, steward the environment, make informed economic decisions, and prepare for and prevent climate-related disasters over the longer term.

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