Canadian Safe and Accountable Rail Act made law

Published: June 24, 2015

Ottawa, Ontario – To enhance railway safety and make the rail industry and crude oil shippers more accountable to Canadians, the Honorable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, announced that the Safe and Accountable Rail Act has received Royal Assent.

“I am so pleased to see these important amendments come into force. Raising standards for rail safety and accountability is a great example of how the Government of Canada is protecting taxpayers and safeguarding the communities along our country’s rail corridors,” Raitt said.

This Act amends the Canada Transportation Act to strengthen the liability and compensation regime for federally regulated railways through enhanced insurance requirements and a supplemental compensation fund financed by levies on crude oil shippers. It also amends the Railway Safety Act to increase information-sharing provisions and provide stronger oversight powers for the Minister and Transport Canada inspectors.

The new liability and compensation regime under the Canada Transportation Act will be brought into force in one year. The new regime aligns with updates the Government of Canada is making to the liability and compensation regimes in other sectors of transport, including for marine tankers and oil pipelines. It is based on the “polluter pays” principle and makes railways and shippers responsible for the cost of accidents, protecting taxpayers and communities by ensuring that adequate resources are available to compensate victims and pay for environmental clean-up.

The Safe and Accountable Rail Act makes the following changes:

  • Federal railway companies must obtain and maintain legislated minimum levels of insurance, based on the type and volume of dangerous goods they carry, ranging from $25 million to $1 billion.
  • A supplementary shipper-financed fund will provide compensation to victims and pay for environmental clean-up in the event that a railway accident involving crude oil exceeds the amount of insurance held by the railway. Companies will have to pay $1.65 per tonne of crude oil they ship by rail.
  • Amendments to the Railway Safety Act broaden the powers of the Minister and inspectors to order railway companies and others to take specified measures or stop any activity in the interest of safe railway operations.