Report says London could spend $2M on rail crossing upgrades to meet new federal rules

New federal safety standards for crossings where rails intersect with city streets means the City of London will have to spend an estimated $2 million on upgrades in order to meet the requirements, according to a city staff report.

New rules call for improved signage, sightlines and cutting back vegetation around rail crossings

A report to the civic works committee on Tuesday night said that London must spend an estimated $2 million on improvements to rail crossings in order to meet new federal safety standards by November 2021. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

New federal safety standards for rail crossings on city streets mean London will have to spend an estimated $2 million on upgrades in order to meet the new requirements, according to a city staff report going to the Civic Works committee Tuesday.

Under the old rules, only 30 to 50 per cent of railing crossings met the grade, according to a 2011 Transport Canada study.
Doug MacRae is the manager of transportation planning and design for the City of London. (Doug McRae/LinkedIn)

The new federal rules require rail companies, cities and private land owners to work together proactively in order to bring crossing safety standards to a consistent level across the country. 

"It just adds a level of complexity," Doug MacRae, the City of London's manager of Transportation Planning and Design told London Morning host Rebecca Zandbergen Tuesday. 

"It's hard enough for one agency to coordinate internally for infrastructure projects, it's that much more complex when two separate, distinct entities do that together." 

Improved signage at all rail crossings

MacRae wouldn't elaborate on what the federal government could do to mitigate the complexity of the city and rail companies working together, but he did indicate they would have to get used to a closer working relationship because the new federal rules require it. 

"The regulations are increasing the level of standards at the crossings and it sets a timeline that will force us to work together," MacRae said.
A Canadian Pacific freight train approaches a level crossing on Richmond Street in London, Ont. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

The new regulations call for improved signage at all urban rail crossings, including pavement marking and cutting back vegetation in order to improve sightlines, MacRae said. 

"It's a wide spectrum of improvements," he said. 

The report going to the Civic Works committee said that all rail crossings in the city would require some form of modification in order to meet the new regulations and "a very preliminary cost estimate" puts the price tag "in the order of $2 million." .

Cost estimate 'a rough number'

However, the report also notes that the city "does not have specific allotted funds to deal with the increased number of studies and/or upgrades required as per the new [grade crossing regulations]."

"It's kind of a rough number. It's to give council an idea of what it would cost," MacRae said, noting the cost is an unanticipated expense and that council would have to decide which budget the money would come from.

MacRae said the city will be proactive in terms of meeting the new safety standards, but he also stressed education is important and people need to use common sense whenever they're using a rail crossing in the city. 

"Rail safety is a collective responsibility for all of us," he said. "You shouldn't be racing to beat the train. Trains are massive, they can't stop quickly."

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: