The federal government must keep municipalities in the loop when improving railway safety standards, Canada's mayors say.  

"Our main mandate is to make sure that the railway system will be safe," said Claude Dauphin, head of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' (FCM) national municipal rail safety working group, following a meeting in Montreal on Friday.

With the recent train derailments in Lac-Mégantic, Que. and Calgary, Alta, in mind, the group urged the federal government to move "swiftly" on three priorities:

  • Help equip and support municipal first responders, and keep them informed of the type of dangerous goods being transported by rail through their communities in order to help plan for emergencies.
  • Ensure federal and industry policies and regulations address municipalities' rail safety concerns and include those concerns in risk assessment and policy development on rail safety.
  • Solidify the regulation of third-party liability insurance for rail companies so the costs of rail disasters are not borne by local taxpayers.

Dauphin, the mayor of the Montreal borough of Lachine, said the recent tragedy in Lac-Mégantic and the derailment in Calgary have made it clear that immediate action is needed. He acknowledged that railway transportation makes a significant contribution to local economies, making it all the more important to ensure it's securely regulated. 

The office of the Minister of Transport responded to the requests on Friday, saying there are plans in the works to set up a meeting between transport officials and a subcommittee on the issues raised by the FCM.