With 48,000 route kilometres of track, Canada has one of the most extensive rail networks in the world. The importance of rail transportation to both the Canadian economy and the quality of life enjoyed by Canadians is significant. The system moves people, goods and services to their destinations, provides jobs and sustains economic growth.
The Canadian rail sector faces many challenges, such as high safety and security standards, long travel distances, sparse population, harsh environments and extreme climatic changes. In addition, industry experts predict that 30% of the skilled work force in the rail sector will be eligible for retirement within the next five to ten years, and therefore the need to attract high caliber candidates and provide sector specific university training at the undergraduate and graduate level is greater than ever.
For Canada to continue to grow and prosper, it is critical that the transportation system evolve to become more innovative, more efficient and more resilient to our harsh and changing environment. Two of Canada's premier rail research programs, the Canadian Rail Research Laboratory (CaRRL) and the Railway Ground Hazard Research Program (RGHRP), are important steps towards addressing the challenges.