Amendments to the Railways Act
Changes to the Railways Act introduced today, Feb. 28, will clarify the public safety and maintenance obligations for discontinued, abandoned or unlicensed railroads in the province.
“There are currently a number of gaps and other deficiencies in the legislation which make it challenging for the government to ensure small railways maintain and repair their infrastructure,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Lloyd Hines. “These amendments will improve our oversight and increase the obligations on railway owners to take more responsibility for their rail infrastructure. It is important we have the regulatory authority we need to ensure public safety on discontinued or abandoned rail lines.”
The amendments will require the province’s three short-line railway companies to have their infrastructure inspected by a qualified inspector every five years to ensure that any rail assets do not become public safety issues.
The changes will also bring the Sydney Coal Railway, formerly regulated under the federal Railway Safety Act, under the regulatory authority of the province.
The authority of the Utilities and Review Board, as the licensing body, is clarified under the act.
- there are three short-line railways in the province
- the Windsor-Hantsport Railway is non-operational. The company owns 34 kilometres of track from Windsor to New Minas
- Sydney Coal Railway owned by Nova Scotia Power, is unlicensed and has no direct regulatory oversight although it abides by federal rules; it is classified as an industrial railway and currently falls outside provincial legislation
- Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway discontinued the Sydney subdivision, from St. Peter’s Junction to Sydney, in 2015 due to low traffic volumes. It is responsible for about 389 kilometres of rail line between Truro and Sydney
- all provinces, except Prince Edward Island, have legislation to govern short-line railway operations. The federal Railway Safety Act governs interprovincial and international railways.