SRC Letters to the Federal Parties and Responses (2019)

SRC Letters to Major Federal Parties (2019)

On July 9, 2019, Safe Rail Communities submitted to each of the four main federal parties, a letter requesting a clear plan with specific steps that each party will take to address the important issue of the transportation by rail of dangerous goods through our communities.  Our letter also outlined all of our recommendations on this issue.  

Conservative Party of Canada

Green Party of Canada

Liberal Party of Canada

New Democratic Party of Canada

The goal of this letter was to publicly share each party’s plan on this issue, and offer Canadians the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. 

Safe Rail Communities is a non-partisan organization, and does not endorse any political party.

As of August 31, 2019 we have received responses from the Green Party, the Liberal Party of Canada, and the NDP.  The Conservatives confirmed receipt of our letter, but did not submit a response.  Please click on the links below for the responses from the federal parties.

Green Party of Canada Response to SRC letter

New Democratic Party of Canada Response to SRC Letter

Idling of Diesel Engines- Rail and Reason: The Dumbing Down of SmartStart

Idling and diesel fumes keeps coming up as a concern for many communities. Rail and Reason is a blog focused on rail safety concerns. Trainjane (author of ) has written an excellent overview of idling and trains.

The “Dumbing Down” of Smartstart

by trainjane on July 2, 2019

CN Back to Leaving Locomotives Idling for Hours

Ah, the good old days, when CN’s locomotives shut themselves off when not in use, in ambient temperatures above 5 degrees Celsius. That relief was mostly in part to something referred to as Automatic Engine Start-Stop (AESS) control technology, and in particular, a brilliant system manufactured by ZTR Controls called “Smartstart.”

So, after CN crews left the yard after their shift with engines running, (yes, you’ve read that correctly) Smartstart would do the job of shutting the locomotives off for them, reducing noise, vibration, and diesel emissions during ambient temperatures of 5 degrees Celsius or greater. Oh, and it saved fuel as well…

The Canadian Transportation Agency states that “Because locomotive engines use water rather than antifreeze for coolant, they cannot be shut down when temperature drops below 5 degrees Celsius. If the water freezes, it could damage the engine block.”

This accounts for why diesel locomotives are left idling for extended periods in winter months. Frankly, I think it is well about time that railways be required to idle in a controlled indoor facility in their rail yards during winter months, rather than leave them running outside for the season to pollute, year after year, if they can’t do better.

Change of Seasons No Longer a Deterrent, CN Keeps Idling

Winter has long since past, but much of the idling usually present through colder months has simply continued throughout spring, and now, into summer.

It seems, in the community where I live, CN has reintroduced diesel locomotive idling on what I have observed at least, an unprecedented scale, complete with engines that rarely seem to shut off, ever, when not in use.

No longer do diesel locomotives automatically shut down after a shift ends, they just idle for hours – and hours – until whenever the next time they are actually needed for use. Now, when the crew leaves the yard, the locomotives aren’t shutting off after them. Months have now passed, and CN has done nothing.

What has happened to Smartstart?

The Dumbing Down of Smartstart; Increased Idling

It has just amazes me that there is no apparent requirement that I have ever been aware of for CN crews to ensure that locomotives are shut off as policy and regulation requires after a shift, before they leave, and why no crews ever turn up for a shift, questioning why any locomotives have been left running unnecessarily.

If CN has any real intention of fixing this problem, it starts by making your crews accountable and ensuring that locomotives have been properly shut down, either manually, or for them via an AESS system that is working optimally BEFORE they abandon idling diesel engines to pollute for hours.

Further, it should not be up to the public to bring this to your attention. Locomotives left idling when they should be shut down? This is the railway’s responsibility to monitor and correct.

The ingrained culture of convenience is overdue to be replaced by one of consideration to resident communities as well as a basic sense of responsibility to reduce the impact on the environment, at the minimum.

No responsible company should be regressing and returning to outdated practices of yesteryear when concerns about climate change are at the forefront of public concern, and, here at least, reducing its own stated Fuel Conservation Policy into little more than a farce.

Regulations in Place

The federal government passed legislation addressing locomotive emissions and idling in June 2017. Here’s an excerpt:


Prohibition — idling

10 (1) Subject to subsection (2), a railway company must ensure that the locomotives in its active fleet do not idle for more than 30 minutes.

Marginal note:


(a) prevent locomotive engine damage, such as damage resulting from the freezing of the engine coolant;

(b) maintain air pressure for the brakes or the starter system;

(c) recharge the locomotive battery;

(d) heat or cool the cab, if the heating or cooling is necessary for reasons of health and safety;

(e) provide head end power, if necessary for reasons of passenger health and safety;

(f) perform diagnostic testing and necessary maintenance; or

(g) respond to an emergency.

Marginal note:

Anti-idling policy

3) A railway company must

(a) have a written anti-idling policy that reflects the railway company’s commitment to reducing locomotive idling

I personally like the part about not letting an engine idle for more than 30 minutes.

I think CN has yet to get the memo here.

On a recent hot day in this community, CN left their locomotives running for almost 11 hours non-stop. The crew left the yard with the engines idling, and they stayed idling, until the next crew showed up, nearly half a day later, and simply deadheaded out of the yard with engines alone.

The previous day, locomotives were left to burn off fuel for at least 6 hours of non-stop idling. These incidents are not isolated, and it seems virtually all locomotives in use here now are affected.

Idling is apparently the new normal here.

So much for Smartstart. Just a few years ago, these engines would have been shut down after minutes, not hours.

Clearly, there is a problem.

Compare this with what CN states on their website, “Driving Emission and Energy Efficiencies”

“Fuel Conservation Practices

Our train crews and rail traffic controllers are continuously being trained on best practices for fuel conservation, including locomotive shutdowns in our yards, streamlined railcar handling, train pacing, coasting and braking strategies. In 2016, we decreased train idling by 14%.”

Who Pays? Customer Surcharges?

And one more question: who pays for the fuel for all the extra idling? Well, yes, the environment of course, (what other company would possibly even consider increasing their emissions?) and then there’s all the added hours of noise and vibration, especially when the engines have been left on higher idle speeds, (frequently here, I might add) but who actually pays for the extra fuel?

I will categorically state that I do not know the answer to that question.

But I will say, that if I was a CN customer being handed an invoice with fuel surcharges added to it, and after observing such a significant increase in locomotive idling this year, I sure would be asking for an explanation, and I hope someone who reads this does exactly just that.

Bruce Campbell: Interview on Prime Time Politics

Bruce Campbell recently released his book The Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster: Public Betrayal, Justice Denied. This book uncovers the truth about Lac-Mégantic. It includes first person interviews with many of the key players, analysis of the corporate executives and the companies involved, an examination of the complex world of transport safety regulation in Canada, and an account of the trials of the three accused.

The Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster: Public Betrayal, Justice Denied is available through Amazon, here.

What are the Dangerous Goods Shipped by Rail Through Communities Across Canada?


What’s being shipped through your community?

One of the most frequent requests for information we receive is “what are the dangerous goods being shipped through my community”?

Under Protective Directive No. 36, the railways are required to share historical aggregate data of dangerous goods shipped with Designated Emergency Planning Official in Canadian jurisdictions.

This information can in turn be made public by each municipality. To access local data, contact your local municipality. You can access provincial data in the links below:

CN Dangerous Goods by Province

CP Dangerous Goods by Province

CN 2017.png
CP Dangerous Goods Canada Wide

CP Dangerous Goods Canada Wide

Sharing this information with the public is an important first step in providing transparency which enables residents to make informed decisions and hold government to account.

That said, while historical data is sufficient for the public, it does not address the need for first responders to access this information in real-time.

Current regulations do not require railways or shippers to provide this data. Information with respect to which dangerous goods are on a shipment at any given time can only be accessed by first responders through an APP or a 24 hour hotline. Safe Rail Communities advocates for regulations to be implement which require real-time data to be shared with first responders. This would allow emergency response providers to act quickly in the event of a derailment involving dangerous goods.

The federal government has a responsibility to set the standards for industry to follow and to protect the public’s safety. If you are interested in learning more about rail safety, please visit our website at You may also contact your MP to voice your concern.

Thank you,

The Safe Rail Communities Team

Safe Rail Communities is a registered non-profit, operated by volunteers. We are sustained by much appreciated donations from concerned Canadians like you. Please consider making a donation in support of our efforts.

Call to Action: Electronic Petitions (House of Commons)

Wow, 2 electronic petitions in one week!
It's great to see Canadians taking action by petitioning our federal government to address rail safety concerns.

Please consider signing these two important petitions:

1.     Petition for a Public Inquiry Commission on the Lac-Mégantic Railway Tragedy initiated by Robert Bellefleur from Lac-Mégantic

An independent public inquiry is vital in order to identify all the causes of this terrible tragedy. It will bring justice to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives. A comprehensive inquiry will also help us understand how our government can address rail safety in order to bring about meaningful change. Tinkering with a system which needs an overhaul is not enough. Our government needs to do everything possible to protect Canadians who live, work and play in rail communities across the country. This includes a comprehensive inquiry.

2. Petition on addressing environmental impacts and providing vital real time data to first responders, initiated by Brian Dias

Thank you!

The Safe Rail Communities Team

Call to Action: Petition

Petition: Help send a strong message to our Federal Government

Please consider supporting this petition, calling for an independent public inquiry into the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster by sharing and collection signatures.

Note: Please return all signed petitions (postage free) to:

Monique Pauzé
MP for Repentigny
House of Commons
Confederation Building, Suite 212
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Former executive director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Bruce Campbell was awarded a Law foundation of Ontario Fellowship for his work on Lac-Mégantic. He spent 2016 as a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa law faculty. He has written a book on the tragedy The Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster Public Betrayal, Justice Denied

He wrote the following in support of a public inquiry:

“On April 11, following the failure of the criminal proceedings to shed significant light on underlying causes and culpability behind the Lac-Mégantic disaster, the Québec National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution calling on the federal government to hold a Commission of Inquiry.

Transport Minister Mark Garneau responded immediately that an inquiry was out of the question. His reason: there have been several investigations notably the Transportation Safety Board [TSB] report, which he deemed to be the last word on the tragedy.

This is simply not true. The TSB report, while important, is no substitute for a Commission of Inquiry. It is limited in scope, cannot assign blame, and unlike a public inquiry, is not able to compel testimony from major players in public, under oath, and subject to cross-examination.

There are many unanswered questions about what happened and who was responsible. The citizens of Lac-Mégantic are owed the full story behind the event that so grievously affected their lives.

The TSB report listed 18 causes and contributing factors. The vast majority related to the company itself and its employees. Only one cause related to Transport Canada headquarters, where all major regulatory decisions were made: that it was aware of significant operational changes by the company and did not provide the necessary oversight of these changes. This vaguely worded cause obscures more than it elucidates about Transport Canada’s role.

More troubling: the preliminary [non-published] version of the report listed as a cause Transport Canada’s granting permission to the company, MMA, to run its oil trains with a single crew member. This cause was erased from the final report. Why? Who wanted it removed? What influence did they exert? Was there political interference? Was the TSB’s independence compromised?

Who within Transport Canada made the decision to allow this delinquent company to operate single person crews, despite major opposition within Transport Canada itself? Is there a deeper organizational dysfunction within the Department and a much too cozy relationship with the railways?

All the legal actions were settled behind closed doors without going to trial, except for the criminal case against the three front-line workers. And what qualified as admissible evidence in that trial was so limited as to exclude even the TSB report.

The only people who testified were low-level company employees, a government inspector and police investigators. No company executives, no senior government officials; no politicians responsible for overall regulatory policy; no industry leaders — were compelled to testify.

Powerful government insiders and industry players have an interest keeping in the whole truth about the role of a deficient regulatory oversight regime and company self-regulation in the disaster, from becoming public.

Transportation of diluted bitumen by rail in Canada is on the increase. The International Energy Association estimates traffic will double over the next two years. Given the uncertainty surrounding Kinder Morgan, the increase could be substantially prolonged.

The prime minister’s case for pipelines is based in part that they are safer than rail. The validity of this assertion aside, massive oil trains will continue to rumble through cities and towns across the country for years to come, whether or not more pipelines are built.

There have been modest improvements in rail safety since Lac-Mégantic. However, major risks remain. A Commission of Inquiry can shed light on many unanswered questions about what went wrong at senior levels of government and industry that led to the worst human and environmental railway tragedy in modern Canadian history; and in doing so lead to policy change essential for improving rail safety and helping to reduce the chances of a recurrence.”

Launch of the Safe Rail Communities Rail Safety Toolkit: For Residents

On Saturday, April 21, 2018, Safe Rail Communities enthusiastically launched our Rail Safety Toolkit for Residents, a national resource.  This toolkit was born of an appeal from residents who didn’t know what to do after a derailment in the west end of Toronto in the early hours of an August Sunday morning in 2016.  Finding little support to address these concerns, Safe Rail Communities began to pull together a variety of resources related to rail safety.  In partnership with Transport Canada, York University’s Advanced Disaster and Emergency Response Simulation (ADERSIM) program, Disaster and Emergency Management consultants, One Degree Government Relations Corp., and amazing volunteers, we were able to produce this important rail safety toolkit.

We are pleased to provide here two electronic versions of this toolkit, one for professional printing, and one for office printing:



For professional printing:
Safe Rail Communities Rail Safety Toolkit: For Residents (Professional Printing Version)

For in home or office printing:
Safe Rail Communities Rail Safety Toolkit: For Residents (Home or Office Printing Version)

A French version will follow.

If you would like us to introduce this tool to your group of students, residents, or neighbours, please contact us at

Safe Rail Comedy Fundraiser with Steve Patterson

Comedy Fundraiser (March 2018)

Steve Paterson Comedy fundraiser.jpg

Safe Rail Communities thanks Steve Patterson immensely for hosting a fabulous sold-out comedy show on March 20th in support of our important work.  Living in a rail community in Toronto’s west end, Steve appreciates why Safe Rail Communities advocates for the safe transport by rail of dangerous goods and raises awareness on this issue.  The 90-minute show included a fabulous line-up of local comics: Arthur Simeon, Herb Irving, Kate Davis, Rhiannon Archer, and Rob Pue. At the half-time, Steve interviewed Safe Rail Communities.  We are always grateful for the opportunity to explain our work, what we’ve achieved since March 2014, the challenges we face, where we are going, and what Canadians can do to add their voice to this issue.

If you would like to learn more about our work, please explore all the resources on our website at and connect with us on FB, Twitter, and at

Safe Rail Communities Family Fundraiser:2018

On Sunday June 3rd, from 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm, Safe Rail Communities will be holding their 3rd annual Family Fundraiser at Vine Avenue Parkette. Please see attached poster for details.
Please register to participate in our popular hoop-a-thon by emailing us @ You may collect pledges with  or make a direct donation using this link. If you'd like to collect pledges with a paper sponsorship form, please use this link

Anyone can help raise funds to support our work in advocating for greater transparency and safeguards with respect to the transport by rail of dangerous goods.
If you don't have a hoop, borrow one of ours.We will have various hoop sizes, and will be offering hooping lessons.

If hooping isn’t your thing, then drop by to enjoy a day of family fun! You can also grab a bite to eat from our BBQ, bid on silent auction items generously donated by local businesses, and bring your kids to participate in a number of activities.

Together we can support our community and stand up for safe, transparent, and regulated rail.


The Safe Rail Communities Team

SRC Family Fundraiser Poster_2018_final-1.jpg