Transport Canada Updates Canadian Rail Operating Rules

The changes are the result of Ministerial Order (MO) 20-09 issued in September 2020, requiring the railway industry “to adopt new practices designed to improve safety and prevent uncontrolled movement while conducting switching operations, and to ensure that equipment is properly secured while switching,” according to Transport Canada. (That order was issued following the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s investigation into a 2017 fatal accident at CN’s Melville Yard in Saskatchewan.)

The rules—announced July 30—now prescribe:
• when air brakes must be used during switching operations “to ensure a consistent approach across the railway system.”
• measures to ensure that stationary equipment is secured during switching operations to prevent uncontrolled movements.
• speed restrictions when switching is conducted with a remote control locomotive.

Transport Canada reported that the changes build on other measures to decrease the number of uncontrolled rail equipment movements. Among them: Two Ministerial Orders were released in March, prompted by the Feb. 1, 2021 derailment of a Goderich-Exeter Railway train operating at the Goderich Yard. The first (MO 21-01) required railroads to implement specific procedures for locomotive engineers to prevent uncontrolled movements due to an unintended release of a train’s air brakes; the second (MO 21-02) required the rail industry to “add an additional layer of defense” by proposing amendments to the Railway Locomotive Inspection and Safety Rules and the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR) for the Minister’s approval.

Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra

“Maintaining a safe, efficient and reliable rail system is key to the continued success of Canada’s economy,” Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra said. “Transport Canada continues working to modernize its rail safety oversight and to directly address key safety risks facing Canada’s rail network.”

In February, Canada’s Auditor General, the equivalent of the U.S. Government Accountability Office, released a report criticizing Transport Canada as to its overall effectiveness overseeing rail safety.

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