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New safety requirements announced for rail industry

| www.cos-mag.com

The federal government has introduced legislation that will enhance railway safety and increase accountability among the rail industry and crude oil shippers.

The new Safe and Accountable Rail Act 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.

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 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.

These changes are part of the government’s commitment to strengthen oversight and increase collaboration between communities and the rail industry, addressing issues raised in the Transportation Safety Board’s final report on Quebec's Lac-Mégantic derailment as well as concerns of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt also announced the new Railway Safety Management System (SMS) Regulations. 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.

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