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Rail transportation

Canada has one of the largest railway networks in the world. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) investigates railway occurrences that take place on federally regulated track anywhere in Canada.

Since the TSB’s creation in 1990, Rail and Pipeline Investigations Branch investigations and Board recommendations have helped lead to numerous safety advancements in Canada and across North America, including: the introduction of safety management systems, better passenger safety and emergency preparedness requirements, more stringent criteria for the operation of trains carrying dangerous goods, in-cab video cameras for controlling locomotives and tougher standards for tank cars carrying flammable liquids.

TSB rail investigators come from a variety of backgrounds in the industry, each possessing significant knowledge in some or many aspects of operations, equipment and maintenance of way. TSB rail investigations touch on a wide variety of subjects, such as operational decision making, risk management, component failure, supervision, metallurgy and track–train dynamics.

Rail transportation occurrences in 2023

Preliminary statistics on rail transportation occurrences in 2023 show that a total of of 1234 rail occurrences (accidents and incidents) were reported to the TSB, a decrease of 11% from the previous year (1382).

Of these occurrences, a total of 913 were rail accidents, a decrease from 2022 (1008) and 13% below the five-year average (1045). Eighty-seven of these accidents involved dangerous goods, a decrease from the 2022 total of 110 and below the five-year average of 115. Six accidents resulted in a dangerous goods release.

Of the 913 total accidents, 67 were fatal, resulting in 67 fatalities, two more fatalities than the previous year and above the five-year average of 63. Fifty-three of these fatalities were from trespassing accidents compared with 51 in 2022. Trespassing accidents remain the primary cause of fatalities accounting for 79% of all rail fatalities, followed by crossing accidents, which decreased slightly to 13 fatalities in 2023 from 14 in 2022.

There were 24 accidents involving an uncontrolled movement of rolling stock and 9 incidents of uncontrolled movement, compared with 37 and 9 respectively in 2022 and the five-year average of 41 and 14 respectively. The unplanned/uncontrolled movement of rail equipment was added to the TSB Watchlist in 2020.

Additionally, 321 railway incidents were reported, representing a 14% decrease from 2022 (374) but a 3% increase from the five-year average (312). A total of 161 of the 321 (50%) railway incidents in 2023 were categorized as “movement exceeds limits of authority” incidents, 27 more than in 2022 and 28 more than the five-year average of 133.