PACP Committee Report
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Dear Mr. Christopherson:
Pursuant to Section 109 of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, please accept this as the Government of Canada’s Response to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts’ Report “Chapter 7, Oversight of Rail Safety – Transport Canada, of the Fall 2013 Report of the Auditor General of Canada”.
I would like to thank the Committee for all its work on this study of the oversight of railway safety, and express my appreciation to all who took the time to appear before the Committee to share their views. Following the derailment and explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Québec on July 6, 2013, Transport Canada quickly implemented a series of immediate and early actions to further strengthen the rail safety regime, most notably the acceleration of regulatory development, issuance of Protective Directions, Emergency Directives and Ministerial Orders, and greater collaboration with industry stakeholders, provinces, municipalities, and key transportation officials from the United States.
Approximately four months after the accident in Lac-Mégantic, the 2013 Fall Report of the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), which included a chapter on audit findings and recommendations with regard to Transport Canada’s Rail Safety Program, was tabled in the House of Commons. The OAG audit examined whether Transport Canada had adequately overseen the management of rail safety risks by federally-regulated railways, focusing on four aspects of Transport Canada’s oversight program: its regulatory framework, oversight activities, human resources and quality assurance program. The audit did not focus on the safety of Canada’s rail industry or on railway companies’ operations, and it did not examine any aspect of recent rail accidents, including the tragic rail accident in Lac-Mégantic.
Transport Canada responded to the OAG’s report by accepting all of the recommendations and by taking targeted actions to address the OAG’s findings and recommendations, further strengthening railway safety oversight by enhancing its ability to plan for and conduct oversight activities and by improving its human resource planning. These included improving the processes and procedures inspectors use to assess risk, reviewing and improving inspection tools, ensuring timely and mandatory training for inspectors and managers, determining whether the current workforce has the required skills and competencies, and adopting a quality assurance plan that supports continuous improvement to the oversight of rail safety. Transport Canada also accelerated the development and implementation of regulations stemming from the recent Railway Safety Act amendments, many of which come into force in early 2015.
In addition, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) issued two recommendations and two safety advisories to Transport Canada in its final report on the Lac- Mégantic accident which was made public on August 19, 2014. Transport Canada formally responded to the TSB’s recommendations on October 19, 2014 and as a result has taken further immediate, meaningful action to improve railway safety and the safe transportation of dangerous goods by rail.
I am pleased to report in detail below on these actions that have addressed the concerns raised in “Chapter 7, Oversight of Rail Safety – Transport Canada” of the Fall 2013 Report of the Auditor General of Canada that prompted the five recommendations in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts’ Report.
Recommendation 1: That by December 2015, Transport Canada reports to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on its progress in addressing unresolved rail safety issues, implementing outstanding recommendations and updating the regulatory framework.
Transport Canada commits to providing this information to the Standing Committee of Public Accounts before December 31, 2015. In the meantime, I would like to note that Transport Canada has made significant progress in addressing unresolved rail safety issues. Transport Canada has made substantial updates to the regulatory framework by implementing outstanding recommendations made in the Railway Safety Act Review Report and in the 2008 rail safety review conducted by House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (SCOTIC). Following the recommendations of the RSA and SCOTIC reviews, the new Grade Crossings Regulations came into force on November 27, 2014 and the new Railway Operating Certificate Regulations came into force on January 1, 2015, and a number of new regulations have been developed that are all expected to be in force in spring 2015, including Railway Safety Administrative Monetary Penalty Regulations, Railway Safety Management Systems Regulations, and rail safety amendments to the Transportation Information Regulations.
Recommendation 2: That, by December 2014, Transport Canada provide the Standing Committee on Public Accounts with its reassessed minimum oversight requirements resulting from its enhanced risk-based planning process and with the results of its review about the resources needed to enable it to conduct this level of oversight.
In Fall 2013, Transport Canada conducted a study in response to OAG audit recommendations that included a review of current oversight methodologies in order to determine which methodology is best suited for oversight of each functional discipline in the Rail Safety Program, including operations, equipment, passive crossings, signals, and tracks. This analysis and revision of the oversight methodology, including the increased numbers for audits and for the resources required to conduct this level of oversight, was approved in February 2014.
The 2014-15 risk-based business planning process was completed using the revised and approved oversight methodology and the minimum oversight requirements were reassessed as a result of this process. While the number of inspections remained relatively constant compared to the previous fiscal year, the number of audits increased. A three to five-year cycle has been developed and implemented for audits of all federally-regulated railways to provide for adequate coverage. In order to deliver on this increased audit requirement, staffing is underway to augment the audit capacity of Rail Safety. Additionally, recent amendments to the Railway Safety Act (RSA) resulted in a larger number of railways being covered by the RSA and Transport Canada is including these as part of its oversight planning. Resources to undertake this additional work are part of the staffing underway.
Recommendation 3: That, by December 2015, Transport Canada report to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on the results of its review of its risk-based oversight planning methodology.
Transport Canada commits to providing this information to the Standing Committee of Public Accounts before December 31, 2015. In the meantime, I would like to note that Transport Canada conducted a review of its risk-based oversight planning methodology in January 2014 and identified the "leading indicators" of railway safety, which are measurable factors that can be used to identify risk areas in order to introduce mitigation measures before accidents occur, e.g. the number of train pull-aparts caused by a broken knuckle or broken drawbar, in-service joint pull-aparts, and the number of bridges with Temporary Slow Orders, among others. These leading indicators of railway safety will be provided by industry to inform Transport Canada’s risk-based business planning. The requirements related to the collection and provision of these leading indicators have been formalized in amendments to the Transportation Information Regulations that were published in Canada Gazette, Part II on December 17, 2014 and will come into force on April 1, 2015.
I would further like to note that Transport Canada has developed the Rail Safety Integrated Gateway (RSIG) information system to address the data reporting recommendations of the 2007 Railway Safety Act Review Report. Today, RSIG is a fully automated system designed to collect information for rail safety analysis purposes. Under the amendments to the Transportation Information Regulations, industry will be required to provide safety performance data, in the form of fifteen leading indicators of railway safety, electronically to Transport Canada on an annual basis beginning January 15, 2016. In the interim, the bulk of the data required under the amendments to the Transportation Information Regulations is already being collected by railway companies and some of it is already being provided to Transport Canada on an ad hoc basis.
Transport Canada analyzes this data and uses it in the preparation of annual oversight plans.
Recommendation 4: That, by December 2014, Transport Canada report to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on the progress attained in updating its follow-up procedures for oversight activities, and in training inspectors on these procedures and on the Railway Safety Integrated Gateway data system.
Transport Canada has developed the RSIG information system to provide Railway Safety Inspectors with the tools needed to document, analyze and report on the results of their oversight activities. Training for inspectors on the RSIG system, and on documentation of inspections and audits and communication of findings, started in November 2013. By July 2014, the RSIG inspection and audit modules were in place and all inspectors were trained on and mandated to use RSIG.
Transport Canada developed follow-up procedures for audits and inspections that will ensure timely follow-up by inspectors, based on risk, on deficiencies affecting the safety of federally-regulated railway operations. These follow-up procedures were completed and approved in June 2014 and all Railway Safety Inspectors were required to attend training sessions on the new follow-up procedures by the end of that month. Going forward, the follow-up procedures for inspections and audits will be part of the Railway Safety Inspector training core curriculum and follow-up activity will be tracked on an ongoing basis through the risk-based planning process and recorded in the RSIG system.
Recommendation 5: That, by December 2014, Transport Canada report to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on the progress made in implementing its Human Resources Strategy, including the identification of inspector skills and competencies required in a systems-based approach to oversight, an assessment of its staffing requirements to carry out oversight activities, and actions planned to address any gaps.
In September 2013, Transport Canada developed a Human Resources Strategy that sets out the tasks that needed to be accomplished in order to ensure Transport Canada staff are qualified and equipped to perform their duties and established timelines for those tasks to be completed. The Strategy called for the identification and documentation of inspector skills and competencies required in a systems-based approach to oversight. The Strategy also called for an assessment of skills and competencies found in its current workforce, identification of gaps, if any, and actions planned to address those gaps.
In accordance with the timelines of the Human Resources Strategy, a competency framework for Railway Safety Inspectors was developed in June 2014 that identifies the inspector skills and competencies required in a systems-based approach to oversight. An assessment of the current inspectorate workforce competencies to identify any gaps was completed by the end of October 2014. To address identified gaps, training, recruitment and retention strategies were updated and revisions to regional work descriptions were completed at the end of December 2014. Going forward, the results of this assessment will form the basis for inspector training, recruitment and retention strategies that will ensure the Rail Safety Program has the required staff with the skills and competencies it needs to plan and implement its oversight activities.
Once again, I thank the Committee for its efforts. Let me assure you that Transport Canada will continue to take steps that further strengthen the oversight of railway safety by improving its ability to plan and conduct oversight activities. We remain committed to working with industry, municipalities, provinces, our U.S. federal counterparts and other key stakeholders to continue to protect the safety and security of Canadians.
The Honourable Lisa Raitt, P.C.,