Maintenance of Short Line Railway Crossings

Res #: 20-13M
Number: 20
Year: 2013
Midterm: Yes
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No

WHEREAS the costs for maintenance expense for uncontrolled railway crossings on lines under the jurisdiction of Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway are not imposed to any degree on the applicable local municipal authority;

WHEREAS the costs for maintenance expense for uncontrolled railway crossings on lines under the jurisdiction of short line railways are subject to a Standard Grade Crossing Agreement for Maintenance and Inspection that has to be signed by the short line railway and the local municipal authority encouraging sharing of the costs between the two parties and subject to dispute settlement by the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure;

WHEREAS the short line railway authority selects the materials and means by which to repair and replace crossings leaving the applicable local municipal authority with no input into the process and simply expected to pay its share of the billing;

BE IT RESOLVED that the SARM Board be asked to approach the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure or any other applicable government department or any other applicable agency and ask that the cost of crossing maintenance for uncontrolled railway crossings be set at the level of the previous rail owner.

Response from Honourable Don McMorris, Minister of Highways and Infrastructure

As you are aware the province supports and encourages provincial railways and municipal governments to develop and adhere to crossing maintenance agreements that addresses the unique circumstances of each municipality's crossing.

With regard to the most recent Resolution passed (No. 20-13M), we would note that cost apportionment of maintenance expenses for federal railway crossings (CN and CP crossings) are governed by federal board orders established by the Canadian Transportation Agency.  There are many federal railway crossings in which the board order identifies the road authority as the party primarily responsible for crossing surface maintenance.

For your information, federal board orders which established the cost apportionment for each party at these federal crossings, are not binding on the new owner of the railway when CN or CP sells a railway line to a new provincially regulated railway.

If both a provincial railway owner and the road authority agree to do so, they can simply carry on the terms and conditions of previous railway owner's federal board orders.  However, if either party feels circumstances have changed and the terms and conditions of the old federal board orders are no longer relevant or are unfair, the province recommends the parties negotiate a new agreement to determine a new mutually acceptable and fair cost sharing arrangement for crossing maintenance that better reflects the current road traffic use and railway operations.

It is our understanding that the standard grade crossing agreement for maintenance and inspection mentioned in the resolution was developed by SARM and is simply a template agreement that is negotiable and can be changed to address the concerns of both parties involved as well as the unique circumstances for each crossing in question.

We understand and share the concern noted in the resolution regarding a road authority's potential lack of control or input in the crossing maintenance process. One of the primary reasons the Ministry encourages railways and road authorities to develop long-term crossing maintenance agreements is to provide road authority more say in the ongoing assessment of crossings as well as more say in the means and timing of crossing maintenance repairs.

Many federal board orders are often very old and do not contain adequate detail regarding what maintenance activities and costs are covered under the board order.  As a result some board orders can become problematic and open to interpretation when they are applied to current real world maintenance activities and costs.  Because of this the Ministry recommends the parties develop new crossing agreements that better define the specific roles and responsibilities pertaining to crossing maintenance.

There are provisions in The Railway Act of Saskatchewan to address crossing maintenance cost apportionment disputes.  The authority within the Act to resolve such disputes has been delegated to the Highway Traffic Board.  The Board has established a non-binding mediation process as well as a more formal and binding hearing process.

The Highway Traffic Board has full discretion to evaluate such disputes on a case by case basis and to determine what factors to consider in resolving a dispute and also whether or not the terms and conditions of the previous railway owner's federal crossing board order are still relevant, fair and reasonable.

View updated response dated August 17, 2017 from the Ministry of Highways