The following is an opinion-editorial piece submitted by federal Minister of Transport, Hon. Marc Garneau:
It’s Rail Safety Week in Canada, which is a time to reflect and a time to bring extra focus to this important issue.
Since the Lac-Mégantic tragedy in 2013, Rail Safety Week has taken on a new meaning.
Canadians everywhere are right to take an interest in rail safety and to want to know what’s being done.
Among some of the improvements made over the past few years, we’ve hired more railway and dangerous goods inspectors to strengthen our inspection system.
We’ve also lowered speed limits for all trains carrying dangerous goods, which decreases the chance of a derailment.
In addition, new legislation now allows the government to fine a railway company in order to encourage compliance and improve safety.
At grade crossings, we’ve changed safety requirements to make it easier to see trains coming and to better protect drivers and pedestrians.
I’m also pleased that Canada and the U.S. are working together to phase out older tank cars. That means that new tank cars will have many new safety features and improvements.
Despite our best efforts, accidents do happen which means we need to continue to take concrete steps to strengthen the safety of Canada’s railway system for all Canadians.
As Minister of Transport, rail safety isn’t just one of my top priorities, it is my top priority. I have heard concerns about rail safety from across the country and am committed to answering your call for more information.
That is why I’m very pleased that Budget 2016 is providing $143 million over the next three years to increase oversight activities, and to provide first responders with better tools and information to protect communities like yours.
While our efforts are ongoing, and rail safety in Canada continues to be on the right track, remember that safety isn’t just the responsibility of railways, inspectors, and government – you have a role too.
One of the best things you can do is to stay away from the tracks. Each year, too many Canadians are struck and killed by moving trains while trespassing on tracks. This is entirely preventable.
Another thing you can do is to respect grade crossings by never trying to ‘beat the train.’
We’ve all seen it at some point – a car that races under the crossing arm, or a pedestrian running across the tracks at the last minute. This isn’t a risk anyone should take. Ever.
For Rail Safety Week 2016, I encourage you to learn more about rail safety.
A great way of doing this is through Operation Lifesaver, an organization that educates Canadians about the hazards surrounding rail property and trains. Visit their website at: www.operationlifesaver.ca.
I also encourage you to share your views and concerns on rail safety with me by using the hashtag #SeeTrainThink and #RSW2016.