Railways in Your Community

Transport Canada’s Rail Safety Inspectors work with local governments and residents to promote safe railway crossings. ‘Whether your crossings operate with only signs, crossing lights, bells and gates, and/or are coordinated with traffic lights, together we can make railway crossings safer for everyone.

Building near or around a railway crossing

  • Under the Railway Safety Act, the proponent who plans specific types of work at or near a road/rail crossing must notify the railway, adjacent property owners and Transport Canada. This applies to constructing or changing:
    1. any railway track, when the project involves buying land in addition to the land an existing track and line works is built on;
    2. railway bridges and culverts with an overall span greater than six metres and railway tunnels (in a municipality);
    3. structures (other than mines or oil or gas wells) above or below a railway track, by a party other than a railway company;
    4. public road crossings, including installing or changing road crossing warning systems (not road crossing signs); and
    5. a track when the work may affect drainage on adjoining land.
  • Railways and municipalities/cities must work together to establish crossing agreements. A road that is grade-separated from railway tracks is still considered a crossing of a rail right-of-way. The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) provides a guide to help road authorities and railway companies when they want to construct or reconstruct a road crossing.
  • A qualified registered professional engineer shall take responsibility for the engineering work. Section 11 of the Railway Safrty Act requires that all engineering work relating to railway works, including design, construction, evaluation or alteration, be done according to sound engineering principles.

Building a new road/rail crossing Consider this when creating a new grade crossing:

  • You must apply Transport Canada’s requirements. You can find them in the “Technical Standards and Inspection, Testing and Maintenance Requirements” and the “Pedestrian Safety at Grade Crossing Guide.”
  • All trains must whistle as they approach new at-grade public crossings. New public crossings will result in new whistling activity that may impact local businesses and residents. Transport Canada has developed guidelines for a process that allows the railway and the road authority to agree to stop whistling at a specified crossing.

Building a new road/rail crossing

  • Since rail crews must sound the train horn when they see people or animals approaching the right-of-way — in addition to the required whistling at crossings — you may wish to avoid the creation of or allowing access to open and unfenced areas in your community where pedestrians, hikers, beachgoers and pets may wander too close to the railway track. Trespassing on railway tracks is illegal and can be fatal.
  • Think about how a new crossing will impact the surrounding road network and the safety of drivers and pedestrians, especially children. Will drivers be able to stop safely when a train is approaching? Do pedestrians have a safe route to cross the tracks or to wait until a train passes? Will children need a crossing guard to help them use the crossing safely as they walk to and from school?

Addressing conflicts with railway companies

  • If the railway and your municipality/city cannot agree about building a road crossing, the party proposing the project may apply to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) for resolution under the Canada Transportation Act. Complaints related to noise and vibration caused by railway operations should be directed also to the CTA.
  • When developing properties adjacent to rail corridors, consider the impact of railway operations on future residents and businesses. As municipalities and railway facilities and operations grow and expand close to each other, they should engage in careful planning and open communication to avoid future conflicts due to trespassing, blocked crossings, noise and vibration issues.
  • The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) work together to help railways and communities address railway proximity issues.

Useful Resources

To learn more, contact Transport Canada Rail Safety