17 May 2017

Canadians Aim for Rail Freight Safety and Service Improvements with Update of Transport Legislation  

Better Deal for Air Passengers Whilst Track Borne Cargo Gets Investment

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Shipping News Feature CANADA – The Canadian Government is amending the Canada Transportation Act in an effort to improve and modernise both the country's air transport sector and rail freight industry. The Transportation Modernization Act aims to provide a better experience for travellers and a transparent, fair, efficient and safer rail freight system to facilitate trade and economic growth, with key measures including:
  • Establishing new air passenger rights;
  • Liberalising international ownership restrictions for Canadian air carriers to provide travellers with more choice through increased competition;
  • Improving access, transparency, efficiency, and sustainable long-term investment in the freight rail sector; and
  • Increasing the safety of transportation in Canada by requiring railways to install voice and video recorders in locomotives.

That last item was prompted by the fatal accident in Burlington, Ontario which claimed the lives of three VIA Rail employees and left 46 passengers injured after which the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) identified the need for in-cab voice and video recorders and added this issue to its Watchlist.

The act will to require the Canadian Transportation Agency to make regulations establishing a new air passenger rights regime and to authorise the Governor in Council to similarly require air carriers to report on different aspects of their performance with respect to passenger experience and quality of service. The proposed bill could lead to the phasing out of overbooking passengers on flights, a practice that has in recent months been making headlines. Commenting on the legislation, Air Canada in a statement, said:

“Air Canada welcomes the Government's desire to establish air passenger rights that are clear, consistent, transparent and fair for passengers and air carriers industry-wide. We believe it is in the interest of all parties to create a more predictable and fair system that applies to all airlines operating in Canada, which is not currently the case.

“The increase of foreign ownership limits to 49% (from 25%) should provide improved access to international investors and global capital markets for Air Canada. The proposed amendments to the legislative provisions governing joint ventures in the airline industry should facilitate the opening up of new markets by Air Canada and its joint venture partners and accelerate projects that are currently under consideration.”

Last year, the Canadian Transportation Agency launched a Regulatory Modernization Initiative with the aim of reviewing all the regulations it administers and bringing them into line with current business models, user expectations, and best practices in the regulatory field. Stakeholder and public consultations are under way on accessible transportation regulations and air licencing and charter regulations. The timing of consultations on air traveller protection regulations and rail-related regulations will depend in part on the progress of the Bill. Once they begin, all Canadians will have a chance to make their views known through online and in-person forums.

Whilst the reforms to the air industry are grabbing the headlines, being the rule with passenger related topics, north American rail freight carriers will be watching closely to see what develops as the Agency fulfils its promise to ‘foster balance and efficiency in the national freight rail system’.

Photo: In February 2012, three locomotive engineers were killed and dozens of passengers were injured when VIA 92 derailed at a crossover en route from Niagara Falls to Toronto.

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