CALGARY, April 2, 2014 /CNW/ - Are Canada's railways safe? In a report published today by The School of Public Policy, Jennifer Winter argues that an answer is almost impossible to discern because data around rail incidents are "worryingly inaccessible, sometimes conflicting and in certain cases not available at all."
Winter finds these shortcomings to be very troublesome.
"The inability to publicly monitor airline safety statistics would be considered unacceptable," she writes. "Yet trains transporting volatile goods across Canada arguably expose entire communities as in Lac-Mégantic, to potentially catastrophic dangers."
Rail safety has been in the spotlight since last year's disaster at Lac-Mégantic. Federal and provincial governments have expressed a commitment to evaluating general rail safety and the transportation of dangerous goods by train in order to alleviate future incidents. But as Winter points out, any policy changes around Canada's railways will need to be based on sound data.
As such, Winter outlines a series of recommendations that government can take to help in the development of future rail policy:
- The government of Canada should take steps to develop a transportation data portal that consolidates the data on rail, road, pipeline, marine and air transportation.
- Require Canada's main rail companies to report detailed trip information to Transport Canada, which is then available to the public through a data portal.
- Distinguish between freight and passenger trains in current accident and incident statistics.
- Develop consistent standards of reporting railway occurrences between Statistics Canada, Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board, to ensure data quality.
- Clarify what situations lead to classification as an accident versus an incident.
Canada need not look far for an example of sound railway data collection practices. Winter explains that the U.S. has comprehensive rail accident data that is publicly accessible.
The report can be found at http://www.policyschool.ucalgary.ca/?q=content/safety-numbers-evaluating-canadian-rail-safety-data
SOURCE: The School of Public Policy - University of Calgary
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