How to Apply for Approval to Construct a Railway Line: A Guide For Federally Regulated Railway Companies

Table of contents

Disclaimer: This guide is not a legal document. The explanations and definitions given are for guidance purposes only. For legal information, see the Canada Transportation Act. In case of any differences between this guide and the legislation or related regulations, the legislation and regulations prevail.

1. Overview

This guide is for federally regulated railway companies (railway companies) that want to construct a railway line.

Before a railway company constructs a line, it is required by law to obtain approval from the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA). The CTA may approve the construction if it determines that the location of the railway line is reasonable, taking into consideration:

  • requirements for railway operations and services; and
  • the interests of the localities that will be affected by the railway line.

Reference: Canada Transportation Act, section 98

1.1 About this Guide

This guide describes when and how railway companies must apply for approval to construct a federally regulated railway line. It describes other approvals a railway company may need, as well as the steps to take before submitting an application. The guide also explains what information must be included in an application and the CTA review process, and provides general information to people in the relevant localities who may be interested.

1.2 When is Approval Required?

CTA approval is required if you are a federally regulated railway company proposing to construct a railway line.

Key terms

Federally regulated railway company
A railway company that meets one of the following criteria:
  • Operates across provincial, territorial, or international boundaries;
  • Operates within Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, or the Yukon;
  • Is owned, controlled, leased or operated by a federally regulated railway company;
  • Has been declared by Parliament to be for the general advantage of Canada; or,
  • Is an integral part of an existing federal undertaking.
Railway line
Includes a main line, branch line, yard tracks, sidings, spurs or other auxiliary track.

You do not need CTA approval to construct a railway line if:

  • the proposed line is within the right of way of an existing railway line;
  • the proposed line is within 100 metres of the centre line of an existing railway line for a distance of no more than 3 kilometers; or
  • you are a port authority, incorporated under the Canada Marine Act, constructing a railway line on lands that you manage, hold or occupy.

1.3 Additional Approvals or Requirements

It is your responsibility, as the railway company making the application, to determine what other federal, provincial or territorial approvals are required for your proposed line and to obtain those approvals. Below is a list of examples.

i. Insurance requirements (Certificate of Fitness)

To construct or operate a line, you must first have a Certificate of Fitness. The CTA will issue you a certificate if you can show that you have the appropriate liability insurance coverage for the proposed construction or operations.

If you do not have a certificate, or your existing certificate needs to be revised to cover your proposed new line, you may apply for a new or varied certificate at the same time you submit your application to construct the railway line.

For more information, see our Guide to Certificates of Fitness.

ii. Environmental approvals

If any part of your proposed railway line is on federal lands, the CTA is required by law to consider the line's potential environmental effects. The CTA cannot approve the line construction application unless:

  • it finds that the line is unlikely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, or
  • it finds that the line is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, but the Governor in Council then decides that those effects are justified in the circumstances.

Reference: Impact Assessment Act, section 82 and related definition of "federal lands"

In some cases, your proposed construction project may require an impact assessment by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. The railway projects requiring assessments include the following:

  • a railway line in a wildlife area or migratory bird sanctuary;
  • a railway line that is capable of carrying freight or passengers between cities and requires a total of 50 km or more of new right of way;
  • a new railway yard with a total area of 50 hectares or more;
  • a railway yard expansion if it results in an increase of its total area by 50% or more and a total area of 50 hectares or more; and/or
  • an international or interprovincial bridge or tunnel.

If your proposed line requires an impact assessment, the result must be that the project is permitted to proceed. Only then can the CTA can make a decision about your line construction application. The CTA may consider any relevant parts of the impact assessment in its own decision.

For additional information on whether your project may require an impact assessment, please contact the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.

iii. Other federal or territorial approvals

To construct a railway line, you may also require approvals from other federal authorities, including reviews and permits from Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The construction of a line in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories or the Yukon is subject to obligations under applicable land claims agreements and related legislation.

2. Pre-Application Activities

Before you submit your line construction application, you are expected to engage the people in the localities (communities and others as described in the Key terms below) that would be affected by the proposed line. You should use this engagement process to:

  • discuss the proposed railway line and understand what impacts its construction and operation would have, whether negative or positive; and
  • identify appropriate measures for addressing localities' concerns.

This is a critical step, as you are expected to include a summary of all engagement activities and their outcomes in your application.

Key terms

A locality includes neighbourhoods, communities, townships, and municipalities and encompasses its residents, land owners, business owners, public institutions, and Indigenous peoples.
Interests of the localities
Concerns that localities have, and/or benefits they see, with regards to the location of the proposed railway line, including any activities related to its construction and operation.

During the pre-application period, you are also expected to identify and prepare any technical studies or assessments needed to explain the role of the proposed line in your railway operations and understand the effects it may have on the relevant localities. Studies and assessments are an important part of the information you need to provide to localities and later, in your application. You can use engagement activities to help identify the types of studies and assessments you need and to share early results with localities.

Engagement activities should therefore include the following steps:

Step 1: Preparation

  • Identify localities that would be affected by the railway line
  • Initiate discussions with municipalities and other government bodies
  • Identify and conduct technical studies / assessments

Step 2: Engagement

  • Announce and promote engagement activities
  • Provide engagement materials, including the results of technical studies / assessments where available
  • Hold the activities

Step 3: Documentation

Keep records on:

  • The number and nature of your engagement activities
  • The comments and concerns raised by the localities
  • Any commitments you make to address concerns

2.1 Preparation

i. Identify localities that would be affected by the railway line

You are expected to identify the localities that would be affected by the location of the railway line and keep a record of the criteria you used to identify these localities. Proximity to the proposed railway line, the construction and operational activities involved, and the impacts these may have are important considerations when identifying relevant localities.

ii. Indigenous people

You are expected to engage the Indigenous groups and peoples your proposed line could affect. Their views and concerns are part of the interests of the localities that the CTA will consider when assessing the application. Be sure to document all engagement results and include this documentation in your application.

The Government of Canada also has a duty to consult Indigenous groups in certain circumstances – in particular, where someone's conduct could negatively impact Aboriginal or Treaty rights. This duty to consult, and where appropriate accommodate, exists where there are established rights and also where there is potential for the rights to exist.

The duty to consult is an important part of the government's activities, including some regulatory project approvals. It means that if an independent agency like the CTA approves a project like a line construction, its decision could trigger the Crown's duty to consult. As a result, documentation in your application may be used to determine whether there is a duty to consult and to inform any consultations the CTA carries out related to this duty.

There are resources that may help you identify the Indigenous groups that would be affected. For example, you can use the Government of Canada's Aboriginal and Treaty Rights Information System, a web-based interactive map.

iii. Initiate discussions with municipalities and other government bodies

Once you have identified relevant localities, including any Indigenous peoples, you are expected to discuss the proposed railway line with the appropriate municipalities and other government bodies. The purpose of these discussions is to help you identify:

  • The views and concerns of the localities. Concerns, in particular, will depend on the nature and scope of the railway line project, and may include:
    • traffic on municipal roads and emergency vehicle access;
    • pedestrian, cycling and vehicle safety;
    • noise, vibration and lighting effects on nearby residential areas;
    • safety and security, including at rail crossings, on rail lines, in rail yards and resulting from the transportation of dangerous goods;
    • changes to area drainage patterns and soil erosion;
    • surface, groundwater, and other environmental impacts;
    • impacts on local utilities and road infrastructure;
    • impacts on property values;
    • access to and continued use of residential, business and agricultural land; and
    • the protection of wildlife and the natural environment.
  • Technical studies / assessments needed, for example to determine what impact the rail line would have on:
    • surface, groundwater, and other environmental impacts;
    • safety;
    • local traffic and emergency response services;
    • planned land use for the surrounding area; and
    • nearby residents, including due to noise and vibration.
  • Measures to address identified concerns.

iv. Conduct technical studies / assessments

Acting early to identify and complete any technical studies or assessments will help ensure the timely processing of your application.

When deciding whether to prepare a particular study or assessment, you should take into account all the relevant facts about the location of the proposed line and the construction and operational activities involved. If there are residential, wildlife, or environmentally sensitive areas near the line, you should consider those factors, along with the feedback you received from municipalities and other government bodies about the kinds of studies or assessments that would be useful.

Example: If your application involves constructing a rail yard close to a residential neighbourhood, noise and vibration from the proposed rail line(s) might affect the people in that locality. The CTA expects your application to include a detailed noise and vibration technical study.

Technical studies / assessments should:

  • predict the significance of the impacts associated with the construction and operation of the railway line;
  • identify mitigation measures to manage the impacts; and
  • estimate the residual impacts after the application of mitigation measures.

If any factors or feedback suggest that a particular study or assessment would be useful, but you decide not to do that study or assessment, you will need to explain this in your application.

Additional Information on Requirements for Noise and Vibration

The CTA has a Railway Noise Measurement and Reporting Methodology that you are expected to follow.

A noise technical study or assessment should consider any "sensitive receptors" within a 1 km radius of the proposed railway line. Sensitive receptors can include outdoor areas or indoor spaces, as in homes, schools, hospitals, daycare centres, seniors' residences, and other buildings.

2.2 Engagement

i. Meaningful engagement

You are expected to inform people in the localities of your intention to construct a railway line and conduct meaningful engagement activities. At this point, you are no longer engaging only the municipal and other government stakeholders contacted during the preparatory phase, but the broader range of individuals and groups that could be affected by the location of your proposed line. The extent of your engagement activities will depend on the nature and scope of the railway line and should take into account the following:

Set aside sufficient time overall, and during individual activities, to properly engage people.
Consider using a variety of engagement approaches to ensure you receive broad input. For example, you could organize individual meetings, open houses, and community discussion tables, in addition to putting relevant information online.
Give people enough information to allow them to understand the proposed railway line project. This must include information about the location of the proposed line, how it may affect the locality, and any measures intended to address potential concerns. For events in bilingual regions, provide the information in both official languages.
The timing, approach, materials provided, and any other aspect of the engagement activities should ensure that people can participate fully. People should be able to:
  • thoroughly review and consider the information;
  • ask questions and receive and consider any additional details/answers;
  • formulate their views; and
  • submit their comments and concerns.
Work collaboratively with the localities to address their concerns.

ii. Announce and promote engagement activities

You should use a variety of methods to promote your engagement activities to a broad range of stakeholders within the localities. For example, you could:

  • request that the municipalities post a public notice on their websites;
  • broadcast a notice with local radio stations;
  • place a notice in local newspapers;
  • place a notice of the planned information sessions on the bulletin boards of public buildings, community halls, social organizations and service clubs;
  • advertise the information sessions within the newsletters and websites of local associations and service clubs;
  • use various social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or other internet sites or mobile applications;
  • include information in material distributed by municipal counsellors to their constituents; and/or
  • directly contact persons who will be affected (for example, by hand-delivering notices to relevant businesses and residences).

Promotional materials should identify:

  • how people will be engaged;
  • engagement activity dates;
  • submission deadlines;
  • where people can find more information on the proposed railway line; and
  • the name, telephone number, and email address of the contact person available to the localities for engagement purposes.

Remember: It is your responsibility to inform people in the localities of your intent to construct a railway line, your proposed construction and operational activities, and how those activities may affect them. If you fail to do this, the CTA may reject your application as incomplete.

iii. Provide engagement materials

Make your engagement materials, including the results of technical studies or assessments, readily available to any person from the locality interested in participating in the engagement process. The materials should be written in plain, non-technical language that is easy for someone with no prior knowledge of railway operations to understand. Include visual aids where helpful. The materials must always be relevant, balanced, and objective.

At a minimum, ensure the engagement materials include descriptions of the proposed line and its potential impacts and benefits, your proposed mitigation measures for the potential impacts, maps, and comprehensive summaries of any technical studies / assessments.

2.3 Documentation

You are expected to keep a comprehensive record of your engagement activities with localities and Indigenous groups, as this record forms part of a complete application. Include, at a minimum:

  1. the number and nature of the activities;
  2. the comments and concerns raised by the localities; and
  3. the commitments you made to address those concerns.

Example: Take minutes of meetings and other verbal engagement activities. Keep copies of all written feedback you receive, including comments on the engagement materials and responses to any questionnaires and surveys that you distribute.

3. Application Requirements

You are responsible for submitting a complete set of information that, in your view demonstrates that the location of the proposed railway line is reasonable, taking into consideration your operational and service requirements and the interests of the localities.

The onus is on you to provide enough detail and supporting evidence to permit the CTA to fully assess your application.

Your application must include the required information, organized as follows:

  1. Application overview
  2. Location of railway line
  3. Railway operations and services
  4. Engagement activities

If your proposed railway line does not involve certain activities listed below (e.g. construction of a yard), you should identify the activity as "not applicable".

Note: The CTA may require any information it considers necessary to make a determination, including information that is not specified within this guide. The CTA decides whether to require additional information based on the specific facts of each case.

3.1 Application Overview

Provide an introductory overview of the application that includes:

  1. your company's legal name and primary contact information;
  2. the approval you are seeking from the CTA; and
  3. a description of the proposed railway line construction and operations, the planned timelines, and the services that will be operated.

3.2 Location of the Railway Line

i. Railway line description

Provide a description of the proposed railway line. Include enough information to identify the location of the railway line and all proposed rail infrastructure in relation to their surroundings and proximity to the different localities.

ii. Alternative locations

Indicate whether alternative locations were considered. Provide the criteria and rationale for choosing the proposed location.

iii. Maps and plans

Include maps and plans that are made to scale, labelled, include a north arrow, and have a comprehensive legend that defines the symbols used.

  • Maps should depict the location of the proposed railway line and associated infrastructure in relation to their geographic surroundings.
  • Plans should capture all of the geometric features of the proposed railway line and other important railway line components and be prepared and dated by a qualified engineer.

The maps and plans should include the following details:

1. Railway lines, including main lines, branch lines, yard tracks, sidings, spurs, and other auxiliary track, showing:

Details Maps Plans
Location and alignment Yes Yes
Right of way Yes Yes
Mileage points, including beginning and end Yes Yes
Profile in relation to the existing ground Yes Yes
Topography Yes Yes
Existing railway lines that the proposed railway line may cross Yes Yes
Alternative locations that were considered Yes No

2. Roads, including bridges, tunnels and private crossings, showing:

Details Maps Plans
Road allowances No Yes
At grade or grade-separated crossings Yes Yes
Type of crossing protection systems No Yes

3. Infrastructure, including pipelines, utility crossings, culverts, noise walls, embankments, open drains, ditches, and watercourses, showing:

Details Maps Plans
Whether above or below ground Yes Yes
Utility support structures No Yes

4. Localities in proximity to the railway line, showing:

Details Maps Plans
Property lines and names of the owners of the land that the railway line will cross Yes Yes
Existing and future land-use and zoning around the site of the proposed rail infrastructure Yes No
Alternate access points for adjacent landowners if lands are divided by the proposed railway line Yes Yes
Sensitive receptors (e.g., homes, buildings, wildlife areas) Yes No

3.3 Railway Operations and Services

Describe the operations and services planned for the proposed line, including the impact on your operations should the railway line not be built.

i. Infrastructure and ground alterations

Provide a detailed description of the proposed infrastructure and ground alterations that will be required, including the following information:

1. Infrastructure in support of operations, including a description of:

  • communication systems, signal systems and related facilities;
  • bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure;
  • compressors and testing equipment (e.g. brake testing, engine loading);
  • storm water drainage systems;
  • spill and drip collection systems for fuelling and oiling stations;
  • track configuration including curves, wyes and connections, branch lines, extensions, sidings, stations and other things connected with the railway line;
  • switches, frogs and other cross-overs;
  • track materials, including ballast, ties, rail weight, continuous welded rail or jointed, fastening system, tie plates, high quality ballast and other required track materials;
  • embankments, aqueducts, roads, conduits, drains, piers and arches;
  • noise and vibration mitigation infrastructure and measures;
  • infrastructure necessary to allow the construction of a railway line across another railway line;
  • infrastructure necessary to allow the construction of a railway line across a road that passes across, over or under a railway line, and includes a structure supporting or protecting that part of the road or facilitating the crossing;
  • infrastructure necessary to allow the construction of a railway line across a utility line that passes over or under a railway line, and includes a structure supporting or protecting that part of the utility line or facilitating the crossing; and
  • any other infrastructure, not identified above, that is necessary for the operation of the railway line.

2. Modifications to lands, waterbodies and existing utilities, including a description of any:

  • cuts, fills, berms, ponds, channels, channel realignments, watercourses, canals or roads that adjoin or intersect the railway line;
  • alterations to roads;
  • drains or conduits into, through or under land adjoining the railway line;
  • alterations to the position of a water pipe, gas pipe, sewer, drain, telegraph, telephone, electric line, wire or pole across or along the railway line; and
  • other relevant modifications to lands, waterbodies and utilities not otherwise identified above.

ii. Operational activities

Provide a description of the railway operational activities that would be undertaken on the proposed line (a) during the first year of operations and (b) when operating at full capacity. Include the following information:

1. Main/branch/spur line operations, including a description of:

  • passenger rail service: stations, platforms, parking lots, passenger and vehicle traffic, and crossings;
  • freight rail service: type of locomotives, cars, and whether dangerous goods are expected to be transported;
  • spurs: location and number of trains per day that will idle and the length of idle time;
  • daily train volumes by time of day, train lengths and speed of operation;
  • frequency and length of blocked public road crossings;
  • lighting and noise emitters, including whistling and bells, and whether any retarders will be installed;
  • access and other security measures (e.g. fencing, cameras, etc.); and
  • any other relevant railway line operational activities not identified above.

2. Railway yard operations, including a description of:

  • yard activities to be undertaken;
  • type and volume of containers to be loaded and unloaded daily;
  • how goods will be handled (e.g., transfers, loading/unloading, storage, refrigeration, etc.)
  • equipment and rolling stock to be operated (e.g., yard locomotives, trucks, hostler trucks, etc.);
  • inspections of equipment and rolling stock (e.g., brake testing, whistle testing, bells, etc.);
  • idling, shunting, train building and marshalling;
  • yard topography, grade and hump;
  • noise retarders and anti-idling systems to be employed;
  • classification of rail cars;
  • oil and water separators;
  • facilities such as depots, wharfs, stores, pads, loading and unloading facilities;
  • buildings (e.g., warehousing, maintenance, office, etc.);
  • truck traffic (type, volume, frequency, time of day, travel speeds, access and exit roads and routes to be used);
  • lighting and noise emitters, including whistling and bells;
  • service roads;
  • access and other security measures (e.g., fencing, cameras, guards); and
  • any other relevant railway yard operational activities not identified above.

3. Railway maintenance and repair yard operations, including a description of:

  • maintenance activities and operations (e.g., type, frequency, volume, duration, and scheduling);
  • testing activities (brakes, locomotive engine loads, etc.);
  • facilities (locations, construction, noise abatement measures, etc.);
  • tracks used for maintenance purposes; and
  • other relevant railway maintenance and repair yard operational activities not identified above.

iii. Railway services

Provide a detailed description of the railway services to be provided. Include the following:

1. The purpose of the proposed railway line, including whether it is intended to:

  • increase volume capacity to meet expected growth in demand;
  • provide new, increased, or better rail access to existing or new customers;
  • increase railway operating efficiencies and reduce operating costs;
  • address community issues;
  • improve rail safety; and/or
  • create a more efficient rail transportation network.

2. Any letters of support or other supporting documentation from stakeholders, including customers, demonstrating their interest in the services to be provided.

iv. Construction activities

Provide a detailed description of the proposed line construction activities. Include the following:

1. Construction activities, including a description of:

  • the phases of construction, including any preliminary works (clearing, grubbing, demolition, pre-loading, etc.);
  • facilities for construction crews (e.g., offices, washrooms, lunchrooms and parking);
  • on-site/off-site staging for:
    • equipment/machinery;
    • bulk construction materials (concrete, fill, sand or wood, etc.) and forms;
    • other track construction materials (e.g., rail, track materials, ballast); and
    • excavated material.
  • off-site disposal facilities or containment areas for excavated materials;
  • temporary works (dykes, berms, pumps, shoring, etc.);
  • security facilities, including security systems, and construction fencing required for site security and to prevent trespassing.
  • audible warning devices;
  • traffic diversion / management plans;
  • truck haul routes;
  • pile driving; and
  • blasting activities.

2. Any other construction activities not identified above that are necessary for the operation of the railway.

Note: If you have a completed environmental assessment at the time you apply for approval to construct your line, you must send the CTA the environmental assessment report with your application.

3.4 Engagement Activities

Provide a comprehensive summary of the engagement activities you undertook, including:

  1. A list of the localities, including the municipalities, other government bodies (such as conservation authorities and water boards), and Indigenous communities, that will be impacted by the railway line and a description of how they were identified;
  2. A description of when and how people in the localities were contacted and the contact person;
  3. The manner in which the public was notified of the engagement process and how they could participate, including a copy of the notification or advertisement;
  4. A copy of the engagement materials made publicly available, including all technical studies / assessments prepared, how and when they were made available, and the amount of time localities were provided to consider the material;
  5. A summary of meeting dates, attendees, topics discussed, concerns raised, plans for addressing concerns, and any outstanding unaddressed concerns;
  6. A copy of all written comments you received in the course of the engagement activities, including meeting minutes;
  7. Your responses to the issues raised, the manner in which you communicated your responses, and the feedback received;
  8. An explanation of potential mitigation measures that would address the issues raised during the engagement activities and any commitments you are willing to make to implement them
  9. Any mitigation measures proposed by either Indigenous groups or you to address negative impacts on any traditional Indigenous practices, such as hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering;
  10. A description of any issues that remain unresolved, including the reasons why these issues remain unresolved; and
  11. Any other information you believe would be relevant to the CTA's review of your application.

4. How the CTA Will Review Your Application

The review process has four stages:

Stage 1: Assess for Completeness

  • assess  completeness of application

Stage 2: Public comment process

  • post application on our website
  • invite localities to provide comments

Stage 3: Deliberations

  • consider information
  • seek additional information

Stage 4: Determination

  • issue determination
  • post determination on our website

4.1 Stage 1: Assess for Completeness

Upon receipt of your application, the CTA will review it to ensure it includes all necessary information and supporting evidence. Failure to include this information and evidence may delay the CTA's assessment, which will not move to Stage 2 until the application is complete. If the application is incomplete, Agency staff will contact you to explain what information is missing, and give you an opportunity and deadline for providing that information.  If you don't provide the necessary information by the deadline date, your file will be closed.  It can be reopened at any time once you file the information required.

4.2 Stage 2: Public Comment Process

The review of your application will include a public comment process. The CTA will post your application on its website for a minimum of 30 business days, giving people in the localities an opportunity to directly provide their views.

You will be required to publish a notice of the upcoming public comment period in a local newspaper or as otherwise directed by the CTA, at least 7 business days in advance. This notice must appear in both official languages and indicate where your application can be found on the CTA website. A sample public notice is shown in Appendix B.

During the public comment period, you must make a paper copy of the application available for viewing in a public space such as a city hall, library, Band Council office, or Settlement office. You must also provide the CTA with publicly accessible electronic links to the application and its supporting documents.

The application and any related documents you submit will be made available on the CTA website and remain there throughout the review process. This is also true of any comments submitted by the public and other government departments or agencies. If your documents include information that you think could cause specific direct harm if made public, you can ask the CTA to treat that information as confidential, as outlined in Appendix A.

Note that requests are not approved automatically – the CTA considers them carefully, on a case-by-case basis. The CTA only agrees to treat information as confidential if it is relevant to your application, you can show that releasing it would cause specific direct harm, and that harm outweighs any public benefit to disclosing the information.

From this point, the CTA endeavours to finish the process (complete Stages 3 and 4) within 85 business days.

4.3 Stage 3: Deliberations

The CTA will consider all information received and may require additional information from you, visit the site of the proposed line, or request that you undertake, at your own expense, additional studies or assessments. In some cases, the CTA may decide to hold an oral hearing.

4.4 Stage 4: Determination

At the end of the process, the CTA will issue its determination, including its reasons for approving or rejecting your line construction application. An approval may include conditions that you must follow. The determination will be published on the CTA website.

Railway line construction determinations, including any conditions, are subject to monitoring and compliance activities.

If you are not satisfied with the determination, you can petition the Governor in Council or appeal it to the Federal Court of Appeal.

Reference: Canada Transportation Act, sections 40 and 41

Links to key CTA and Court determinations related to the approval of railway line construction can be found in Appendix C.

5. How to Submit Your Application

You should send your application, including all supporting documentation, by e-mail to this CTA address:

5.1 Confidential Information

Applications and all related documents submitted during the process are published on the CTA website. However, any person submitting a document or providing information may request confidentiality, and the CTA will consider the request.

Appendix A explains how to make a request for confidentiality.

Appendix A: Request for Confidentiality

How to Apply

Your application for approval to construct a railway line, and all supporting documents you submit, will be put on the Canadian Transportation Agency's (CTA) public record. If your application, or any supporting document, includes material that you think would cause specific harm if made public, you can ask the CTA to treat it as confidential by providing the following:

  • One copy of the document (the public version) from which the confidential information has been blacked out.
  • One copy of the document (the confidential version) in which:
    • each page is marked "contains confidential information" at the top, and
    • you highlight or otherwise identify on each page the confidential information that was blacked out from the public version.
  • Your reasons for requesting confidentiality, including why you believe you, your company, or a third party would likely experience specific direct harm if the information is disclosed.

Important Notes

  • If a document is a required element of your application, you must provide it. You may not refuse to submit it because it contains confidential information.
  • Requests for confidentiality are not approved automatically, but considered carefully, on a case-by-case basis. The CTA will consider whether the information is relevant to your application and whether putting it on the public record would cause any specific direct harm. It will also consider whether there could be any public interest in the information and whether the harm from disclosure outweighs any public benefit in having the information disclosed.
  • The CTA will place a document on the public record, even if you have requested confidentiality, if it finds that:
    • the document is relevant to the proceeding, and
      • disclosing it would not likely result in specific direct harm, or
      • the public interest in having it disclosed outweighs any specific direct harm.
  • If the CTA finds that the document is relevant to the proceeding and that the specific direct harm likely to result from disclosing it justifies confidentiality, there are several possible outcomes. The CTA may:
    • order that the document be kept confidential (only the CTA will have the document, it will not be placed on the public record);
    • order that the confidential information be removed (only a version without this information would be placed on the public record); or
    • make any other order it considers appropriate.
  • If the CTA finds that the document is not relevant to the proceeding, it will return it to you. The document will not form part of the public record.

Appendix B: Sample Public Notice

You can use this sample notice to inform interested persons in the localities about the Public Comment stage (Stage 2) of the application approval process. The date the notice was posted must be made clear in the notice or on the posting platform (newspaper, website, etc.).

[Railway Company Letterhead/Logo]

[Date of posting or publication]




We, the [Railway Company Name], have applied to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) for approval to construct a railway line between mileage X.XX and mileage X.XX of our [Subdivision Name] subdivision, located in [City Name], [Province Name].

The CTA is inviting the public to comment on our application. Any person who has views on the application may submit comments to the CTA by e-mail no later than [closing date of comment period]. Comments should be sent to:    

Where to Find the Application and Related Information

Our application and related documents are available on the CTA's website at

More information about our application is also available at:

[Railway Company Information Coordinates]

Reason for our Application

We have applied to construct this railway line because [reason, in plain language].

Reason for the Public Comment period

The CTA will only approve our application to construct the railway line if it decides that the proposed location of the line is reasonable. To help it decide whether the location is reasonable, the CTA considers the views of the communities, individuals, or groups that would be affected by the railway line. One way the CTA does this is by giving the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed line. 

The CTA is required by law to consider the interests of the localities that would be affected by the railway line. This and the other factors the CTA must consider are set out in section 98 of the Canada Transportation Act.

Publication of the Comments

All comments sent to the CTA, including the submitter's name, will be posted on the CTA's website unless the submitter has a valid reason to request confidentiality. For more information about this or about the Public Comment process, contact the CTA at 1-888-222-2592 or by email at   

Appendix C: Relevant CTA, Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Court of Appeal Determinations

This appendix provides links to past determinations that show how the CTA considered certain key principles when reviewing applications to construct a railway line.

These determinations are provided for information and illustration purposes. The cases included are only a sample of our cases and are not shown in any order of priority. The CTA is not bound by its previous determinations, but makes each determination on a case-by-case basis, considering the specific facts and evidence of each case.

The appendix also includes links to some Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) and Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) decisions that consider these key principles.

i. Engagement with the localities

For examples where the CTA found that railway companies must provide information to the public to allow an adequate understanding of the project, see determinations 178-R-1998, 99-R-2015, 118-R-2015, 379-R-2015 and 248-R-2016.

ii. Interests of the localities

For examples where the CTA identified interests of localities (including, among others, use of agricultural land, safety, noise and vibration, drainage, erosion, protection of wildlife and wetlands, traffic and effect on land values), see determinations 178-R-1998 , 527-R-1999, 591-R-2006, 620-R-2008, 118-R-2015, 341-R-2015 and 379-R-2015.

iii. Indigenous engagement

The SCC, found in its 2004 Haida Nation v. British Columbia, 2004 SCC 73 and Taku River Tlingit First Nation v. British Columbia (Project Assessment Director), [2004] 3 S.C.R. 550 decisions that, where contemplating conduct that may adversely impact Indigenous rights, the Crown must consult and, where appropriate, accommodate those concerns. In addition, in Chippewas of the Thames v. Enbridge Pipelines, 2017 SCC 41 (Chippewas) and Clyde River (Hamlet) v. Petroleum Geo-Services Inc., 2017 SCC 40 (Clyde River) the SCC found that the Crown can rely on consultations done by an administrative tribunal like the CTA to discharge its duty to consult Indigenous peoples.

For examples where the CTA considered the interests of localities included the concerns of Indigenous groups, see determinations 379-R-2015, 99-R-2015, 371-R-2011, 96-R-2012, 304-R-2013, 118-R-2015, 341-R-2015 and 248-R-2016.

iv. Noise and vibration

For examples where the CTA imposed conditions intended to mitigate noise and vibration concerns, see determinations 96-R-2012 and 85-R-2013.

v. Railway yards

For examples where CTA approval was required for the construction of railway lines located within a yard, see determinations 199-R-438, 50-R-2011, 99-R-2015, 96-R-2012 and 304-R-2013.

Note also that the FCA, in Canadian National Railway Co. v. Canadian Transportation Agency A-46-99, affirmed that the CTA has jurisdiction to approve or not approve the construction of railway lines within a rail yard.

vi. Need for a railway line

The FCA, in Sharp v. Canada (Transportation Agency), [1999] 4 FCR 363, 1999 CanLII 9356 (FCA), found that the CTA did not have jurisdiction to consider whether the proposed railway line was “needed”.

vii. Construction timeframe

For examples where the CTA made its approval to construct a railway line valid for a limited time (that is, the CTA included as a condition that the railway company would have to begin substantive construction within a stipulated timeframe or reapply for approval), see determinations 415-R-2011 and 341-R-2015.

viii. Environmental assessment

For examples where the CTA found that its assessment of potentially adverse environmental impacts would be used to inform rail line construction deliberations, and/or that it would enforce conditions set out in an environmental assessment decision, see determinations 178-R-1998, 77-R-1999, 2008-R-456, 620-R-2008 and 85-R-2013.

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