Government of Canada to improve rail safety for Canadians

OTTAWA, June 1 /CNW Telbec/ - The Honourable Rob Merrifield, Minister of State (Transport), today announced that the Government of Canada will introduce legislation to improve railway safety in Canada.

"Our government recognizes the importance of a safe and secure national rail transportation system, not only to communities across the country but also to Canada's economic well-being," said Minister Merrifield.

The proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act will encourage rail companies to create and maintain a culture of safety and penalize rule breakers by enabling the Government of Canada to:

    
    -   crack down on rule breakers with tough new monetary penalties and
        increased judicial penalties;
    -   strengthen safety requirements for railway companies;
    -   create whistleblower protection for employees who raise safety
        concerns; and
    -   require each railway to have an executive legally responsible for
        safety.
    

The Railway Safety Act, which came into force in 1989, gives Transport Canada the responsibility to oversee railway safety in Canada. In addition to strengthening Transport Canada's regulatory oversight and enforcement capacities, the proposed amendments are consistent with the legislative frameworks of other transportation modes.

The new amendments will be backed by Canada's Economic Action Plan, which has committed $44 million over five years to enable the government to pursue a robust national rail safety program based on detailed inspections, safety management system audits and enforcement action in cases of non-compliance.

A backgrounder with further information is attached.

    
                                 Backgrounder
                                 ------------

                           THE RAILWAY SAFETY ACT
                           ----------------------
    

The Railway Safety Act was implemented in 1989. It sets the regulatory framework for addressing rail safety, security and some of the environmental impacts of rail operations in Canada. While the Railway Safety Act was amended in 1999, the Canadian rail industry has changed significantly. Rail operations have become increasingly complex, and rail traffic is growing rapidly.

In February 2007, the Minister of Transport launched a full review of the operation and efficiency of the Railway Safety Act through an independent advisory panel. The findings indicated that the Railway Safety Act is fundamentally sound and that there have been positive efforts to improve rail safety, but more needs to be done. The advisory panel's final report of March 2008 included 56 recommendations for improving rail safety, some of which require legislative changes to the Railway Safety Act.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities also studied rail safety and issued its own report in May 2008. It includes 14 additional recommendations, many building on the recommendations from the Railway Safety Act review.

The Government of Canada agrees with the findings of both reports and is implementing the recommendations and amending the Railway Safety Act to further improve rail safety in Canada.

Transport Canada has established a framework to respond to both the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, and Railway Safety Act review recommendations that do not involve legislative amendments. This framework includes the Advisory Council on Railway Safety, and the Transport Canada-industry-union steering committee and working groups, which have developed action plans to implement the recommendations.

SOURCE Transport Canada

For further information: For further information: Contacts: Robert Lynch, Communications and Issues Management, Office of the Minister of State (Transport), Rob Merrifield, Ottawa, (613) 990-9573; Media Relations, Transport Canada, Ottawa, (613) 993-0055; Transport Canada is online at www.tc.gc.ca. Subscribe to news releases and speeches at www.tc.gc.ca/e-news and keep up to date on the latest from Transport Canada. This news release may be made available in alternative formats for persons living with visual disabilities.


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