Government of Canada / Gouvernement du Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada


Railway Safety Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 32 (4th Supp.))

Full Document:  

Act current to 2024-06-19 and last amended on 2022-09-02. Previous Versions

Railway Safety Act

R.S.C., 1985, c. 32 (4th Supp.)

An Act to ensure the safe operation of railways and to amend certain other Acts in consequence thereof

[1988, c. 40, assented to 28th July, 1988]

Short Title

Marginal note:Short title

 This Act may be cited as the Railway Safety Act.

Application of Act

Marginal note:Binding on Her Majesty

  •  (1) This Act is binding on Her Majesty in right of Canada or a province.

  • Marginal note:Application generally

    (2) This Act applies in respect of railways that are within the legislative authority of Parliament.

  • Marginal note:Exceptions

    (3) Despite subsection (2), this Act does not apply in respect of

    • (a) railways referred to in section 16 of the Harbour Commissions Act; or

    • (b) railways referred to in section 29 of the Canada Marine Act, except to the extent provided by regulations made under subsection 29(2) of that Act.

  • R.S., 1985, c. 32 (4th Supp.), s. 2
  • 1996, c. 10, s. 261
  • 2012, c. 7, s. 2


Marginal note:Objectives

 The objectives of this Act are to

  • (a) promote and provide for the safety and security of the public and personnel, and the protection of property and the environment, in railway operations;

  • (b) encourage the collaboration and participation of interested parties in improving railway safety and security;

  • (c) recognize the responsibility of companies to demonstrate, by using safety management systems and other means at their disposal, that they continuously manage risks related to safety matters; and

  • (d) facilitate a modern, flexible and efficient regulatory scheme that will ensure the continuing enhancement of railway safety and security.

  • R.S., 1985, c. 32 (4th Supp.), s. 3
  • 1996, c. 10, s. 262
  • 1999, c. 9, s. 1
  • 2012, c. 7, s. 3

Marginal note:Minister’s responsibilities respecting railway safety

 The Minister is responsible for the development and regulation of matters to which this Act applies, including safety and security, and for the supervision of all matters connected with railways and, in the discharge of those responsibilities, the Minister may, among other things,

  • (a) promote railway safety and security by means that the Minister considers appropriate;

  • (b) provide facilities and services for the collection, publication or dissemination of information;

  • (c) undertake, and cooperate with persons undertaking, projects, technical research, study or investigation;

  • (d) inspect, examine and report on activities related to railway matters; and

  • (e) undertake other activities that the Minister considers appropriate or that the Governor in Council may direct.

  • 2012, c. 7, s. 3


Marginal note:Definitions

  •  (1) In this Act,


    Agency means the Canadian Transportation Agency continued by section 7 of the Canada Transportation Act; (Office)


    alter[Repealed, 1999, c. 9, s. 2]

    authorized screening

    authorized screening means anything authorized or required to be done under the regulations or a security document for the control, observation, inspection and search of persons or goods to prevent the unauthorized possession or carriage of weapons, explosives and incendiaries on railway works and railway equipment; (contrôle)


    company means a railway company or a local railway company; (compagnie)

    crossing work

    crossing work means a road crossing or a utility crossing; (ouvrage de franchissement)

    engineering standards

    engineering standards means engineering standards established pursuant to section 7; (normes techniques)

    fatigue science

    fatigue science[Repealed, 2015, c. 31, s. 17]


    goods means, except in the definition utility line, anything that may be taken or placed on board railway equipment as freight, baggage or personal belongings; (biens)

    highest level of safety

    highest level of safety means the lowest acceptable level of risk as demonstrated by a risk management analysis; (niveau de sécurité le plus élevé)

    line work

    line work means

    • (a) a line of railway, including any structure supporting or protecting that line of railway or providing for drainage thereof,

    • (b) a system of switches, signals or other like devices that facilitates railway operations, or

    • (c) any other structure built across, beside, under or over a line of railway, that facilitates railway operations,

    but does not include a crossing work; (ligne de chemin de fer)

    local railway company

    local railway company means a person, other than a railway company or an agent or mandatary of a railway company, that operates railway equipment on a railway; (compagnie de chemin de fer locale)


    Minister means the Minister of Transport; (ministre)


    person includes a government of a municipality and a road authority; (personne)


    prescribed means prescribed by regulations; (Version anglaise seulement)


    proponent, in relation to a railway work, means the person who proposes, or has proposed, the construction or alteration of the railway work, whether voluntarily or because of a requirement imposed under another Act or by an order made under section 32.01; (promoteur)

    proposing party

    proposing party[Repealed, 1999, c. 9, s. 2]


    railway means a railway within the legislative authority of Parliament and includes

    • (a) branches, extensions, sidings, railway bridges, tunnels, stations, depots, wharfs, rolling stock, equipment, stores or other things connected with the railway, and

    • (b) communications or signalling systems and related facilities and equipment used for railway purposes; (chemin de fer)

    railway company

    railway company means a person that constructs, operates or maintains a railway; (compagnie de chemin de fer)

    railway equipment

    railway equipment means

    • (a) a machine that is constructed for movement exclusively on lines of railway, whether or not the machine is capable of independent motion, or

    • (b) a vehicle that is constructed for movement both on and off lines of railway while the adaptations of that vehicle for movement on lines of railway are in use; (matériel ferroviaire ou train)

    railway work

    railway work means a line work or any part thereof, a crossing work or any part thereof, or any combination of the foregoing; (installations ferroviaires)

    relevant association or organization

    relevant association or organization, in relation to a railway company, means an association or organization that has been formed to represent the interests of

    • (a) persons employed by that railway company, or

    • (b) persons owning or leasing railway equipment that is used on lines of railway operated by that railway company

    and that is declared by order of the Minister to be a relevant association or organization in relation to that railway company; (organisation intéressée)

    restricted area

    restricted area means an area that is established under the regulations or a security document and to which access is restricted to authorized persons; (zone réglementée)


    road means any way or course, whether public or not, available for vehicular or pedestrian use; (route)

    road authority

    road authority means a public authority having legal authority to open and maintain roads; (autorité responsable du service de voirie)

    road crossing

    road crossing means that part of a road that passes across, over or under a line of railway, and includes any structure supporting or protecting that part of that road or facilitating the crossing; (franchissement routier)

    safety management system

    safety management system means a formal framework for integrating safety into day-to-day railway operations and includes safety goals and performance targets, risk assessments, responsibilities and authorities, rules and procedures, and monitoring and evaluation processes; (système de gestion de la sécurité)

    screening officer

    screening officer means a person designated by the Minister under subsection 27(1) as a screening officer for the purposes of this Act; (agent de contrôle)

    security document

    security document means any of the following documents:

    • (a) a rule approved or proposed for approval under section 19 or 20 that relates to security,

    • (b) an order, contained in a notice, referred to in subsection 31(2) that relates to security,

    • (c) an emergency directive made under section 33 that relates to security, and

    • (d) a security measure formulated under subsection 39.1(1); (texte relatif à la sûreté du transport ferroviaire)

    superior court

    superior court means

    • (a) in the Province of Ontario, the Superior Court of Justice,

    • (a.1) in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Trial Division of the Supreme Court of the Province,

    • (b) in the Provinces of Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, the Supreme Court of the Province,

    • (c) in the Provinces of New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, the Court of Queen’s Bench for the Province,

    • (d) in the Province of Quebec, the Superior Court of the Province, and

    • (e) in Yukon and the Northwest Territories, the Supreme Court, and in Nunavut, the Nunavut Court of Justice; (cour supérieure)


    Tribunal means the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada established by subsection 2(1) of the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada Act; (Tribunal)

    utility crossing

    utility crossing means that part of a utility line that passes over or under a line of railway, and includes any structure supporting or protecting that part of that utility line or facilitating the crossing; (franchissement par desserte)

    utility line

    utility line means any wire, cable, pipeline or other like means of enabling the transmission of goods or energy or the provision of services. (desserte)

  • (2) [Repealed, 2012, c. 7, s. 4]

  • Marginal note:References to proposed railway works

    (3) A reference in this Act to a proposed railway work shall be construed, in a case where a person proposes to alter an existing railway work, as meaning the railway work as proposed to be so altered.

  • Marginal note:Safe railway operations, etc.

    (4) In determining, for the purposes of this Act, whether railway operations are safe railway operations, or whether an act or thing constitutes a threat to safe railway operations or enhances the safety of railway operations, regard shall be had not only to the safety of persons and property transported by railways but also to the safety of other persons and other property.

  • Marginal note:Threats and immediate threats

    (4.1) For the purposes of this Act, a threat is a hazard or condition that could reasonably be expected to develop into a situation in which a person could be injured or made to be ill or damage could be caused to the environment or property, and a threat is immediate if such a situation already exists.

  • Marginal note:Filing or sending notices and documents

    (5) With the exception of a notice or document sent to or by the Tribunal, for the purposes of this Act, the filing or sending of a notice or document must be

    • (a) in the case of an individual, by personal service, by facsimile or by mailing it by registered mail to the person’s latest known address;

    • (b) in the case of a corporation, by facsimile or by mailing it by registered mail to its head office or any other office designated by the Minister; or

    • (c) in either case, by any electronic or other means approved in writing by the Minister and subject to any conditions fixed by the Minister.

  • R.S., 1985, c. 32 (4th Supp.), s. 4
  • 1992, c. 51, s. 61
  • 1996, c. 10, s. 263
  • 1998, c. 30, ss. 13(F), 15(E)
  • 1999, c. 3, s. 82, c. 9, s. 2
  • 2001, c. 29, s. 64
  • 2002, c. 7, s. 234(E)
  • 2012, c. 7, s. 4
  • 2015, c. 3, s. 150, c. 31, s. 17

Marginal note:Inconsistencies with operating agreements

 This Act and all regulations, rules, certificates, orders, exemptions and emergency directives made or issued under this Act prevail over the provisions of any agreement or order that enables a company to operate railway equipment on the railway of a railway company in the event of an inconsistency between them.

  • 2012, c. 7, s. 5

Relationship to Canadian Navigable Waters Act

Marginal note:Compliance with Canadian Navigable Waters Act

 If a person proposes to construct or alter a railway work in, on, over, under, through or across any navigable water as defined in section 2 of the Canadian Navigable Waters Act, the requirements imposed by or under this Act apply in addition to, and not in substitution for, the requirements imposed by or under the Canadian Navigable Waters Act.


Date modified: