The rail supply chain in Canada is core to our economy and standard of living.
Rail service allows small, medium and large businesses to compete globally. Railways in Canada provide efficient service while operating in a safe, environmentally sustainable manner.
The Lac-Mégantic accident was a terrible tragedy that deeply affected all of the men and women across the Canadian railway industry. As we wait for investigators to piece together the unusual sequence of events that led to this tragedy, the railway industry is working to ensure that it is never repeated.
People from across the country have asked me about the dangerous goods travelling through their communities.
It’s important to know that railways in Canada routinely share this information with municipal officials and responders to help develop effective and realistic emergency response plans.
Railways in Canada and the United States are subject to extensive and rigorous safety regulations, including the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and its standards and requirements. These regulations apply to all railway companies in Canada that transport dangerous goods.
Railways under provincial jurisdiction might be subject to additional rules and safeguards. In fact, railways in Canada are trusted to the degree that they are obligated by law to move dangerous goods.
The industry also has outreach programs to make sure officials and other interested parties are aware of the movement of dangerous goods. Last year, we trained 1,100 community leaders and emergency personnel across Canada.
Urban rail expansion, as well as the practice of developing land in close proximity to rail operations, has generated a variety of opportunities and challenges for municipalities, developers and railways.
New land use guidelines, developed by railways and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, promote best practices and awareness about the issues associated with development near railway operations such as noise, vibration, emissions, safety and design.
Rail is a safe and more environmentally responsible option for transporting the dangerous goods that are critical to Canadians. Railways move 70 million people and 71 percent of all surface goods but generate only three percent of greenhouse gases for the transportation sector.
In time, we will learn more about the causes of the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic.
In the meantime, railways are working hard to provide safe and reliable transportation for people, goods and the economy.
Michael Bourque is president and chief executive officer of the Railway Association of Canada.