OTTAWA, Ont.–The government is introducing new measures in the House of Commons today that aim to enhance railway safety and make the rail industry and crude oil shippers more accountable to Canadians. The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, introduced the new Safe and Accountable Rail Act, which proposes amendments to the Canada Transportation Act and Railway Safety Act. Changes include a new liability and compensation regime for federally regulated railways, including minimum insurance requirements; a compensation fund financed by levies on crude oil shippers; increased information-sharing provisions; and stronger oversight powers for the Minister and Transport Canada inspectors.
Shippers of crude oil will be required to pay a levy per tonne of crude oil shipped to build up a supplementary fund to pay for damages exceeding a railway’s minimum insurance level if an accident involving crude oil occurs.
The new liability and compensation regime will be consistent with those the Government has introduced for other modes of transport, such as marine tankers and oil pipelines. It is based on the “polluter pays” principle and makes railways and shippers responsible for the cost of accidents, protecting taxpayers and communities by ensuring that adequate resources are available for compensation if an accident were to occur.
Proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act will also broaden the powers of the Minister and inspectors to order railway companies and others to take specified measures or stop any activity deemed necessary for safe railway operations. The proposed amendments will also create new regulation-making powers requiring railway companies to share information with municipalities.
Also announced were the Railway Safety Management System (SMS) Regulations, 2015. SMS Regulations require companies to develop and implement a formal framework that integrates safety into their day-to-day operations. The new regulations will help address recommendations made in the November 2013 Auditor General’s report, and will reflect over 10 years of lessons learned in providing oversight of railway safety management systems. The new SMS Regulations will be published in Canada Gazette, Part II on February 25, 2015, and will come into effect on April 1, 2015.
Julia Kuzeljevich is Editor of Canadian Shipper. She has been writing about transportation and logistics issues since 1999. All posts by Julia Kuzeljevich