Third annual National Rail Safety Week commences

Sept. 23, 2019
MBTA, Keolis and Canadian National Railway launch educational services and campaigns to spread rail safety awareness.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) General Manager Steve Poftak, MBTA Transit Police Chief Kenneth Green and others kicked off the third annual national Rail Safety Week, along with the Canadian National Railway launching its own awareness campaign.

MBTA provides educational initiatives

For this year’s Rail Safety Week, which runs Sept. 22-28, MBTA, Keolis Commuter Services, MBTA Transit Police (TPD) and others will participate in a series of educational initiatives in support of the campaign.  

“Safety continues to be the MBTA’s top priority and we’re committed to educational efforts that can help prevent rail and track tragedies,” Poftak said. “As part of Operation Lifesaver’s third annual Rail Safety Week, MBTA staff and our partners will be sharing important rail safety information next week to customers, employees and more. We hope these efforts will echo the important message that, when you See Tracks, Think Train, so track tragedies and their devastating consequences can be avoided.” 

Every year, 2,100 North Americans are killed or seriously injured when engaging in unsafe behavior around tracks and trains. Many times, individuals on commuter rail tracks don’t hear a train approaching until it is too late due to a train’s high speed. Even when a commuter rail train is not scheduled, there are also freight trains and other services that operate on the commuter rail network around the greater Boston area. Subway trains also operate at high speeds with immediate braking capacity limited in the event of an unexpected individual found to be along the track area. Additionally, incidents have occurred in which motor vehicle drivers attempt to pass through crossings when warning lights are flashing and/or crossing gates are descending across the roadway with devastating results. 

“The goal of Operation Lifesaver is to raise awareness among the general public, ensuring a clear understanding of the dangers to be aware of on or near tracks, trains and rail property,” said MBTA Transit Police Officer and State Coordinator for Massachusetts Operation Lifesaver Dana DeLorenzo. “The program runs throughout the year with our efforts highlighted during Rail Safety Week. It is my sincere hope that these efforts can help in drastically reducing the number of individuals, families and employees affected by rail tragedies both here in Massachusetts and throughout the country through this awareness and education campaign. Our mission over the past year was to bring this program to as many youths as possible in the schools, especially in the area of the expanded service down to Foxboro. We had great success and look forward to continuing to bring this message to the public as far and wide as we are able.” 

The MBTA says it’s committed to ensuring a safe environment for its passengers and employees and recognizes the risks associated with rail travel. “See tracks? Think train” and #StopTrackTragedies are a part of Operation Lifesaver’s educational campaign aimed at informing the public about the severe risks associated with trespassing on rail tracks or not heeding warning signals at railway grade crossings. This year’s Operation Lifesaver campaign will also feature seven videos telling personal stories of those affected by rail crossing or trespassing incidents – including victims, friends, family members, locomotive engineers and first responders. One video will be released each day through social media during Rail Safety Week with the full campaign able to be viewed at and 

“Now in its third year, Rail Safety Week is an important part of our efforts with the MBTA and other partners to raise awareness about the dangers posed by trespassing on railroad tracks. It is never safe to enter the railroad right-of-way or cross tracks in areas other than designated crossings,” said Keolis General Manager and CEO David Scorey. “Our Keolis Boston teams and employee volunteers dedicate time throughout the year to remind passengers, pedestrians and motorists of the risks presented by not obeying posted signs or signals at crossings. Please remember that if you ‘see tracks, think train’.” 

The MBTA Safety Department, Keolis and TPD have significantly increased the numbers of employees trained in the Operation Lifesaver program in an effort to further spread safety messaging through presentations to schools, civic groups, driver education programs, school bus companies, professional driving schools, trucking companies and first responders. Massachusetts Operation Lifesaver State Coordinator DeLorenzo also hopes to continue to connect with school resource officers throughout the commonwealth in order to educate youth within these communities of additional rail safety measures.

The MBTA, Keolis and TPD have partnered with Operation Lifesaver to educate passengers and the public. Throughout the week of Sept. 22 – 28, MBTA customers will be made aware of Rail Safety and Operation Lifesaver messaging via displays on in-station digital panels and signage onboard subways and commuter rail trains. With a continued commitment to employee safety, rail safety messaging will also be promoted through continued safety briefings and materials given to MBTA and Keolis staff promoting the importance of situational awareness, adhering to rules of the rights of way, hazard identification, the MBTA Safety Hotline, and the employee injury and assault reporting processes. 

Canadian National Railway launches awareness campaign

The Canadian National Railway (CN) also launched its own railway safety awareness campaign to kick off Rail Safety Week 2019 across Canada and the United States.

"[This year] is a very special year for CN as its marks our 100th anniversary. Since the origin, safety has been a core value at CN,” said Stephen Covey, chief of police and chief security officer at CN. “On our journey to become the safest railroad in North America, we want to continue to collaborate with the communities where we operate to reinforce a strong safety culture to help prevent accidents and injuries at rail crossings, and ensure everyone’s safety on and around railroad infrastructure.”

As rail safety is a shared responsibility, the cities, towns and Aboriginal communities CN serves are allies in promoting rail safety in their community. By looking out for each other and working together, the industry, the communities and the general public can all prevent fatalities and injuries on or near railroad property.

Over the last year, 156 communities across CN’s network signed resolutions or proclamations in supporting Rail Safety Week.

During Rail Safety Week, CN Police Service (CNPS) will be out in communities across Canada and the United States raising awareness of the potentially devastating consequences of trespassing on railway tracks and disregarding railway safety signs and devices at level crossings.

“Even if significant progress has been made in the past years, there are still too many people who die while trespassing on railway property. Almost all of those incidents are preventable,” Covey said. “As rail safety is a shared responsibility, we encourage everybody to take a moment to think about what they can do to improve rail safety in their community. It can be by changing our behavior, by talking about rail safety with our family, friends and colleagues or by taking actions.”

Again this year, visitors to CN’s Rail Safety Pledge website can view virtual reality videos on a desktop, laptop or mobile device, and visitors with access to any Google Cardboard viewer can experience this immersive virtual reality environment.

CN is encouraging the public to take the Rail Safety Pledge online, which they can easily share with their Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
The Rail Safety Pledge asks people to share rail safety tips in their community, talk about rail safety at their local schools, or report unsafe behavior around trains or railway property.