Mr. Speaker, Transport Canada will not hesitate to take whatever action is necessary to protect Canadians who live and work near railroads. I want to assure all Canadians that we are committed to continually improving our rail safety oversight regime, including implementing all of the Auditor General's recommendations.
I would like to share the historical context of the 2013 audit conducted by the current Auditor General's predecessor. On July 6, 2013, a train carrying crude oil derailed in the town of Lac-Mégantic. The resulting explosions devastated the community and claimed the lives of 47 people.
The tragedy brought to light significant deficiencies in Transport Canada's rail safety oversight regime. Following the tragedy, the Auditor General tabled an audit report highlighting areas that required particular attention. In response, Transport Canada took immediate and long-term action to address those deficiencies.
In 2014, we defined the requirements for establishing emergency response assistance plans when trains are transporting dangerous goods. In 2015, Transport Canada introduced new requirements for using thicker steel for tank cars transporting flammable liquids. In 2016, we established stricter regulations for accountability and compensation, requiring railway companies to hold a minimum level of insurance based on the risk posed by the type of dangerous goods they move.
We hired more inspectors. Since 2013, the number of railway safety inspectors has risen from 101 to 155. In 2013, we increased the number of manual inspections from 20,000 to an average of 35,000. Last year, we peaked at 40,581 inspections, the highest number of railway safety inspections ever conducted in Canada. In 2015, we passed the Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015, which laid the groundwork for a better safety culture for railway operations.
Building on that progress, in 2015 we created administrative monetary penalties to encourage higher safety performance. We also enhanced our community education, awareness and outreach activities by providing technical briefings to municipal councils.
With more inspections and better risk analysis, we began identifying the main factors contributing to accidents. We addressed these problems through a combination of targeted inspections and regulatory measures.
For example, in October 2020, we approved the Locomotive Voice and Video Recorder Regulations, which helped us gain greater insight into safety concerns and risks. In November 2020, we approved new work/rest rules for railway operating employees, which are in keeping with the most recent scientific evidence on fatigue.
These important changes have improved the safety of rail operations. Over the past five years, the number of deaths attributable to rail explosions has decreased by 27% and the number of accidents has decreased by 12%.
As the Auditor General pointed out in her follow-up audit, Transport Canada still has much work to do. The Minister of Transport has accepted all of the follow-up audit recommendations and we are already implementing measures in that regard.
For example, we are looking for ways to strengthen our Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015, and we are preparing to undertake a series of audits of the effectiveness of this management system in the fall of 2021.
The steps we have taken to implement the recommendations of successive auditors general will help ensure that Canada's rail system remains among the safest in the world.