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Government of Canada invests $20.7mn to enhance its rail infrastructure

Catherine Sturman
|Aug 2|magazine12 min read

In a bid to cater to its growing population, Canada has sought to invest $20.7mn to transform over 40,000km of rail track, improve safety at grade crossings and enhance public confidence across its Rail Safety Improvement Programme.

The programme will provide federal funding in the form of grants or contributions, which will cater towards 105 projects and initiatives in 2018-2019, delivering a comprehensive approach towards improving the safety of rail transportation across Canada.

The government has announced that 103 projects will focus on infrastructure, technology and research, including safety improvements on rail property, the use of innovative technologies; research and studies; as well as the closures of grade crossings that present safety concerns.

This is on top of two rail safety education and awareness initiatives which focus on reducing injuries and fatalities in communities, where 98 projects will encompass grade-crossing improvements across the country, as well as five technology and research projects.

"Rail safety is my top priority. A safe and secure national rail transportation system is important to local communities and to Canada's economic well-being. We are working closely with railway companies and road authorities to identify grade crossings that require safety improvements," stated Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau.

Building on the successful results and lessons learned from existing programmes such as Operation Lifesaver, Transport Canada is making funding available to eligible recipients through a 'two-stream' approach, including:

  • a national public information and education campaign dedicated to contributing to the reduction of railway grade crossing collisions and trespassing incidents on railway property; and
  • targeted regional or municipal education and awareness initiatives to address high-risk areas. This component is also used to support research, studies and analyses that contribute to a better understanding of behaviour, attitudes and impact of rail safety issues including post-accident community trauma assessment.

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This year, Transport Canada is funding two projects under the Public Education and Awareness component of the Rail Safety Improvement Program.

One will provide $400,000 in funding to the Canadian Owner-Operators' Cooperative over two years to implement an outreach project aimed at reducing the number of deaths from accidents between commercial vehicles and trains. By targeting professional truck and bus drivers, the programme aims to remind this community of the potential dangers at railway crossing grades.

The second project will provide $200,000 in funding to VIA Rail Canada Inc. towards a one-year awareness project aimed at suicide prevention on the VIA Rail railways network, with a focus on high-risk and high-incidence areas identified using historical collision data from the last 10 years.

The Infrastructure, Technology and Research component has an enhanced focus on addressing the needs of communities by making more safety improvements eligible and increasing federal investment. This component focuses on supporting a wide range of eligible safety improvements, including improved lighting, upgraded rail crossing signals, pedestrian overpasses, and research into new safety technologies.

Transport Canada is funding 103 projects under the Infrastructure, Technology and Research component, with the majority situated within Alberta, British Columba and Quebec respectively.

Additionally, the country has recently launched its Clean Rail Academic Grant Programme, which will work alongside Canada’s aim to reduce air emissions which are created within the rail sector, and to implement hydogren fuel to power all new and existing lines.

“I am pleased that we are taking concrete action to a cleaner, more innovative economy that reduces emissions and protects the environment. Our clean transportation efforts will achieve emission reductions, improve human health and provide environmental benefits, while supporting clean growth and generating jobs for Canadians. We will all benefit by reducing rail emissions and by supporting research of new and emerging technologies,” added Garneau.