Blue Line

Strategic partnerships for rail safety

We all know that much of this country was built along the railroad lines at a time when there were fewer Canadian citizens, trains and road traffic. Today, the reality is quite different and it is one of many challenges faced by the CN Police Service (CNPS).

April 19, 2017  By Jocelyn Latulippe

One of the key goals of the CNPS is to ensure the safety and security of communities along CN’s vast network of rail lines. The task is a daunting one because the CN rail network spans eight Canadian provinces and 16 U.S. states. CNPS officers are striving to change people’s attitudes and behaviours towards rail safety through strategic enforcement and educational initiatives.

One of our best tools we have had over the years are the strategic partnerships with our many local law enforcement partners. We also do proactive community outreach, which includes free safety presentations to kids across the country on behalf of Operation Lifesaver Canada. Similar presentations are also provided to new and experienced drivers, and upon request to any organization looking for rail safety information.

One of our biggest educational challenges has always been finding a way to effectively reach the numerous law enforcement agencies that have jurisdiction along CN’s network. We have identified a need to educate our law enforcement partners about the importance of rail safety and the impacts rail related incidents can have on a community at large. There is also an opportunity to engage proactively during rail incident investigations. Front-line officers who are involved in rail related investigations now have a multitude of innovative tools available to assist any investigating agency.

As the CNPS continues to move forward with its 2017 strategic priorities, our goal is to take every opportunity to discuss how we can partner with other law enforcement agencies to share the Rail Incident Investigation procedure expertise of our officers. This is an opportunity for law enforcement agencies to review, modernize, update and streamline their own policies and procedures that may affect rail investigations, based on the new information and technologies that are available to them through us. The Canadian Incident Investigation Guide provides guidance on how to deal with rail-related deaths, and includes information that has been approved by all provincial Chief Coroners. We also want to ensure the safety of officers responding to incidents on or near rail lines. In order to help police services investigate incidents on or near rail lines, it is important to make them and their personnel aware of the impacts of stopping trains on a line for long periods of time, which includes: blocked crossings (which may also prevent other emergency services from efficiently responding to emergencies), general security and safety concerns, and the larger impacts on railway operations (both regular and fragile cargo as well as passenger traffic).


CN alone has approximately 19,000 crossings along its network, and with the average train now up to 3.65km in length, one can imagine the impact that occurs when one or more trains are stopped along the way for long periods of time. The CNPS wants to be part of the decision making process, engaging with our partners to help them look at and understand the larger picture.

In 2016, our officers responded to more than 253 rail incidents, where in many cases, trains were being requested to stop for local law enforcement investigations for long periods of time.

The CNPS has the experience and knowledge to assist with rail incident investigations and can provide you with the necessary expertise in order to guide your officers in the field. Front line police officers can be provided with the tools and skills that will allow officers to conduct thorough investigations using modern technologies while avoiding unnecessary delays to what is a very busy rail network system. CNPS officers are a key resource and can in many cases provide information that would forego the need to do a scene reconstruction. Our 2017 strategic priorities will be to offer our support to any law enforcement agency that would like to review and/or revise their policies and procedures affecting railway-related incidents.

Jocelyn Latulippe is the Deputy Chief, Operations with the CN Police. He can be contacted at:

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