Evidence of meeting #43 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was rail.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Michael Bourque  President and Chief Executive Officer, Railway Association of Canada
  • Mike Roney  General Manager, Technical Standards, Canadian Pacific Railway
  • Dwight Tays  Chief, Engineering Technology, Canadian National Railway Company
  • Mike Lowenger  Vice-President, Railway Association of Canada
  • Gregory Aziz  Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, National Steel Car Limited
  • Michael Hugh Nicholson  Executive Vice-President, Marketing, Sales and Quality, National Steel Car Limited
  • Peter Leigh Scott  Regional Vice-President, Marketing and Sales, National Steel Car Limited

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

If I'm looking at the direction the Americans are going in—and I know that increasingly at CN you're doing more and more train services in the U.S., and that's in fact where a lot of your profit comes from—I see that they are going towards electrification more and more. There seem to be quite a lot of capital budgets being put in to do that. Do you foresee that in a few years' time there would be electrification, at least in freight services, in the U.S.?

9:10 a.m.

Chief, Engineering Technology, Canadian National Railway Company

Dwight Tays

I really can't speak too much for the U.S. railroads. I know there's a lot of push for electrification on passenger lines. The northeast corridor is a good example, with Amtrak. I'm not aware of a lot of major freight traffic or freight roads or rights-of-way that are being electrified in the U.S. They face the same hurdles we would face in terms of the infrastructure investment costs to make it happen.

But to Michael's point, I think that on the commuter side, if you have a dedicated right-of-way, which seems to be more and more what's happening, the opportunity to electrify does make some good sense.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

So really it makes a lot more sense to start with the passenger, right? All three of you agree that—

9:10 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Railway Association of Canada

Michael Bourque

Within cities.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

In cities rather than freight?

9:10 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Railway Association of Canada

Michael Bourque

Yes. The other thing to keep in mind is that in freight our story in Canada is that we are moving 72% of everything in this country, and yet we have 3% of emissions for the transportation sector, so we're already a tremendous sustainability story. If anything, what we need is to move more freight onto rail and off our roads, which are more polluting, more costly to the taxpayer, and represent a higher safety risk.

June 12th, 2012 / 9:10 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Speaking of safety, your favourite subject—railway crossings. It's a joint responsibility between municipalities and rail companies. Do you have any insights as to what kinds of improvements can be made to improve the safety components of the crossings, like providing more warnings to motorists, thereby possibly avoiding accidents, deaths, and collisions, especially given that you have some technologies that could be used for advanced warnings of some kind?

9:10 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Railway Association of Canada

Michael Bourque

Thank you.

I actually really appreciate that question. I'll say again that I'm relatively new to the rail sector. There's a tremendous safety culture within the rail business and our safety record is fantastic, but where our safety record is not great is really in those crossings and in trespassing, where the public intersects with rail. It's very difficult for us to control. I think the simple answer to your question is that we need a lot more closings of crossings in this country.

In the old days.... Part of it is our own understanding of rail and the way we think of it, and what it used to be like when you were using a piece of paper to go from one place to the next. It's no longer a back road. It is a highway. It is a superhighway. We need to get people to think that they shouldn't cross the tracks nonchalantly any more than they would walk across the Queensway.

So if we can close more crossings, then we can invest in the crossings that are open and make sure that they're properly signalled, that they have good visibility, and that people are aware of them. If we do that, we're going to see a significant decrease in accidents.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Thank you.

Monsieur Coderre.

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

I'll come back to that. Don't worry. Safety is also a major issue for me.

You have many types of detectors, as we see in your slides. Do you have a fatigue detector?

You referred to human resources. Human resources management is important. Without getting into the labour dispute at Canadian Pacific, I would like us to discuss the human aspect. You cannot just have detectors all the time. What are you doing?

Mr. Chair, people are constantly chatting when I am asking questions. I am starting to get sick of it.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Order, please.

Monsieur Coderre is having trouble.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

I respect people and I would like the same in return, especially as, at this point, we are talking about human beings managing fatigue.

What is your association doing in this regard? What more should it do? It would seem that this is a problem and that it needs to be solved.

9:15 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Railway Association of Canada

Michael Bourque

That is a very good question. I will begin and then I will ask my colleagues to answer your question as well.

I think in terms of fatigue, probably the most significant thing we could do to monitor what's going on with our workers, especially the drivers of trains, is to introduce video technology into the trains.

The one thing that's preventing us from doing that has been a debate about whether that is by unions or in legislation. It's something we're working on. In fact, I had a meeting with the Transportation Safety Board yesterday to talk about this. We'd like to work collaboratively with them to introduce it, but like anything else, it's complex.

To me, it's something that's going to have to happen. The technology, obviously, is a lot less expensive than it used to be. I think the public would have an expectation that in terms of safety, we need to know what's going on, and we need to use that technology to prevent accidents. Whether it's monitoring fatigue or it's determining whether drivers are getting bored and starting to text or to use iPads or any of the myriad of technologies we have today, I think we would see significant benefits from the introduction of that technology.

9:15 a.m.

General Manager, Technical Standards, Canadian Pacific Railway

Mike Roney

If I could add to that a little, I think really the best thing to do is to try to make sure drivers don't become fatigued in the first place. We've done a lot of research that has looked at biorhythms. We actually have a software program we use that keeps track of people's roster time and tries to advise us when someone might be in a situation where they have not had the amount of sleep they might need to perform alertly.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

I am told that it is 24/7, that engineers sometimes work for long periods. How do you increase monitoring? This is not only anecdotal, it is actually happening. Should Parliament be enforcing the Railway Safety Act?

In the labour dispute at Canadian Pacific, I do not understand why the employer could not find a solution on fatigue management. You can have all the technology you want, but if people are not fit to do their work, it is useless. I am prepared to think about new ways of monitoring. Essentially, what matters to everyone is to help the public. We know that when things go off the rails, it can lead to major problems. We need to focus on prevention.

What else is required? Do we have a part to play in this situation or is it enough for the employer to simply sign an agreement with the union?