Railway service important to our present, not just our past

The rail supply chain in Canada is core to our economy and standard of living.

By Michael Bourque

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 tragedy that affected everyone 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 about 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 emergency response plans.

Railways are subject to extensive and rigorous safety regulation including the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. Regulations apply to all railway companies in Canada transporting dangerous goods. Those under provincial jurisdiction might be subject to additional rules and safeguards.

Urban rail expansion, and 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 promote best practices and awareness about 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 dangerous goods critical to Canadians. Railways move 70 million people and 71 per cent of all surface goods but generate only three per cent 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/CEO of the Railway Association of Canada.