What is proximity?

Basically, it means “being close to”.

Often, it’s an unavoidable, but acceptable, fact of life. Canadians have been living and working around trains for nearly 200 years. We are neighbours.

In most cases, railways and communities co-exist without serious conflict. When issues arise, they are dealt with in the normal course of business. Communities and railways are both essential foundations of the Canadian economy.

But as communities and railways evolve, they change. New roadways are built as new communities or housing developments are planned. Old industrial buildings are re- built as residential housing. Rail operations change in order to meet new customer needs.

All these have the potential to bring people closer to active rail operations. Experience has shown that will often generate complaints and calls for changes to existing rail operations.

Such changes are not made easily. Railways are obliged, by federal law, to meet the rail freight transportation needs of customers. They must also meet those needs efficiently and cost-effectively, in order to keep their customers competitive. Passenger and commuter rail must provide affordable rail service.

In all rail operations, safety is the number one concern. A major component of rail safety is continual inspection and maintenance of rail infrastructure.

The practical solution, then, is for railways and communities to work together to plan new developments and re-purposing of existing infrastructure to minimize proximity issues.

That is what led to the joint FCM-RAC creation of the Guidelines for New Development in Proximity to Railway Operations (2013). Essential components of the Guidelines include:

  • Adequate setbacks to address safety, noise and vibration concerns
  • Construction of crash walls where adequate setbacks are not possible
  • Effective communication between municipal and rail officials as part of planning process
  • Inclusion of FCM-RAC Proximity Guidelines in Municipal Planning Acts

Since 2013, FCM and RAC have jointly worked to encourage Canadian municipalities to adopt the Proximity Guidelines. These efforts are succeeding, and continuing. As of June 2017, XX Canadian communities and the Province of Ontario have adopted all or part of the Guidelines in their Planning Acts.