Railway Right of Way Environmental and Safety Transformation

Res #: 21-18M
Number: 21
Year: 2018
Midterm: Yes
Expired: No
Responses Received: Yes
Departments: Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure

WHEREAS conditions of the right of ways of railways have not been maintained, causing safety and environmental issues;

WHEREAS fire guards have been neglected and are no longer effective. They are overgrown with vegetation and have hazardous materials including, but not limited to: old creosote railroad ties, metal rails, railroad spikes, old fence posts, and wire. Tracking grinding and carbon fiber flakes from the engines continue to cause fires. There is no safe passage or access during an emergency such as a fire;

WHEREAS the railway right of ways have vegetation containing invasive plant species that appear to have originated at the said railway right of way and continue to spread throughout municipalities;

BE IT RESOLVED that SARM lobby the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, and Transport Canada to develop a safety policy to address the fire hazard, environmental clean up and control of invasive plant species along railways;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the railways be responsible for clean up of their right of ways and for costs incurred by municipalities for fire fighting and weed control on and originating from said right of ways.

View response from the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure

Responses From: Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure

October 6, 2022

The ministry participates in the Rail Safety Working Group through the Council of Ministers responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety. This participation allows Saskatchewan to have a strong representation regarding rail safety. 

Effective July 2022, federally regulated railways are subject to two new rail safety measures. One measure will focus on railway-related fire prevention, while the othewill improve the resiliency of Canada’s railway infrastructure against climate change impacts, such as flooding, landslides and fire risks. New federal rules are now in place to help prevent fires on railway property and nearby communities. These new rules require railway companies to: 

  • Reduce t rai n speeds and conduct additional track inspections when temperatures are high to reduce the risk of derailment caused by track conditions. 
  • Inspect locomotive exhaust systems more frequently to ensure they are free of any deposits that could pose a fire risk. 
  • Implement a fire risk reduction plan. The fire risk reduction plan is robust. It requires companies to monitor fire risk levels, manage vegetation, reduce activities that could spark fires and respond to detected fires. Companies must also engage local governments and Indigenous communities on their plans. 

Similarly, provincially regulated railways are required to develop and maintain a preparedness plan to maintain safe railway operations during periods of extreme heat and other environmental conditions. Weather plans are required to ensure that a railway has measures in place that are sufficient to operate during extreme heat conditions. 

Provincially, mitigation measures are required to prevent fires in and along the rail rights-of-way. The fire preparedness plan should include and set out: 

  • A description of the methods used for fire detection. They can include increased patrols and the use of spotters or any other reliable measures for monitoring during extreme conditions. 
  • Description of fire mitigation measures to be undertaken during moderate to high fire conditions. 
  • Description of equipment used to monitor fires and extinguish small fires, considering railway operations and planned response times for deployment when a fire is detected. 
  • Process to collect and incorporate input from local fire departments along with a defined procedure for contacting and assisting emergency services. 
  • Description of vegetation control, identification of combustible material and removal practices. 

The Honourable Jeremy Cockrill – Minister of Highways and Infrastructure, Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure