Rail safety rules deemed ‘onerous and unclear’

Township has 33 crossings which will be affected by new Transport Canada regulations

Transport Canada’s new regulations governing safety at road and railway intersections are too onerous, are unclear and leave Langley Township holding the bag financially.

Transport Canada announced modifications to the Railway Safety Act in January.

With several major rail corridors and railways operating within its boundaries, the Township is directly affected, having responsibility within the road right of way.

Between them, Southern Rail, CP and CN have 33 road-rail crossings in the municipality, and among the concerns is that the proposed modifications make no reference to the process for banning train whistles in built-up areas.

“This is often a common concern for municipalities and a clear and consistent reasonable process would be beneficial,” the Township’s manager of transportation engineering wrote to Transport Canada in April.

Paul Cordeiro agreed that the responsibility for construction and maintenance of crossing surfaces rests with the railway companies, but states that the Township should be able to “prescribe additional minimum performance standards, such as an asphalt surface that meets technical specifications.”

The Township is not happy with another major change which allows a crossing to be blocked by a train for up to 10 minutes.

The current maximum rules allow for five minutes, Cordeiro noted in his letter.

Furthermore, there is no clearly defined role for the federal transportation authority in the administration of policy and standards, financial contributions, and no mechanism for dispute resolution.

Another concern is defining the responsibility for the significant requirement for inventory, data collection, and an ongoing inspection program “which is currently not being undertaken and would add significant costs” to the municipality.

On June 11, council agreed that while it supports the intent to improve safety at road-rail crossings, it does not support the proposed modifications, and wants more time to undertake a thorough review of the changes.

A meeting between Township staff and Transport Canada is planned.