Direction 2006 Built the Foundation for Future Success
By Ken Lancastle
Most achievements and successes are the result of a common goal and cooperation from all partners and stakeholders. Direction 2006, or D2006 as it is often called, was no exception.
Conceived in 1996 after a review of the Canadian Railway Safety Act, Direction 2006 sought to reduce crossing collisions and railway trespass incidents by 50 per cent over ten years; one of the recommendation from the Railway Safety Act review.
What had appeared to be a lofty, if not insurmountable goal, ended up changing the face of railway safety, both in Canada, and worldwide.
“I think everybody felt a 50 per cent cut was a lofty goal considering all the [collision and trespass incident] reductions we had since 1980,” said Mike Lowenger, co-chair of Direction 2006 and vice-president, operations and regulatory affairs at the Railway Association of Canada. “But I think it achieved what it set out to do and maybe more.”
More importantly was that the goal, no matter how hard it appeared to be, brought important groups together under one umbrella.
“The harder the target, the harder people were going to work to achieve it,” said Gary Drouin, Direction 2006 co-chair and representative from Transport Canada. “It gave the impetus to want to go out and achieve it. People who are working for a cause will rally around it. We couldn’t slack off.”
As a partnership between all levels of government, railway companies, public safety organizations, police, unions and community groups, Direction 2006 was a classic example of the gains that can be made through cooperation.
Prior to the launch of the program, rail safety was something that was tackled individually by various stakeholders. By bringing together multiple stakeholders to achieve one goal, Direction 2006 was able to effectively combine those efforts.
“The goal was to reduce the risk, and it seemed that everyone around that table was focused on how we were going to reduce that risk,” explained Drouin. “It broke down the silos. Direction 2006 gave the forum to sit down and compare notes [about rail safety].”
What Direction 2006 also did was provide much-needed government funding to go out and implement new rail safety initiatives, above and beyond what was already being done by Operation Lifesaver.
The program was broken up into several different sub-set committees, with emphasis placed on areas such as research and development, communications, technology, enforcement, education, legislative, funding, and engineering.
“These are all added components that Operation Lifesaver would not normally have had,” explained Dan Di Tota, national director of Operation Lifesaver in Canada. “The fact that we had those additional federal dollars enabled a lot more to be done than we would normally be able to.”
The funding also brought in the much needed resources that allowed Operation Lifesaver to capitalize on development of new materials, as well as new initiatives such as information kiosks placed in railway stations and museums across Canada, and professional driver information packages.
Other important initiatives included the work done between Direction 2006 and the trucking industry in Canada. Direction 2006 was actively involved in developing training manuals, videos, and education for the trucking industry, to help reduce accidents between trucks and trains.
“It really increased the key audience involvement in crossing safety,” noted Lowenger about the involvement with the trucking industry.
On the research side, Direction 2006 allowed the railway industry in Canada, as well as all appropriate stakeholders, to examine, test and implement new technologies to help reduce crossing collisions and trespass incidents.
In conjunction with the Transportation Development Centre, the research arm of Transport Canada, some of these technologies included wayside horns, LED lighting at crossings, reflectorization of freight cars, and second train warning systems. This was in addition to new educational materials and community guides already being distributed across Canada.
“You just need to look at the long list of materials and technologies that were developed and created by D2006 to see the impact it had,” Di Tota explained. “There are a lot of research papers that were written up and there was a lot of important documentation made that could not have been done without Direction 2006.”
The list of materials, initiatives and technologies that were developed speaks to the tremendous importance of Direction 2006. But even beyond those elements, the program also raised the bar in terms of awareness of rail safety.
Direction 2006 partnered with multimedia companies to develop public service announcements that would be seen across Canada. Billboards, posters, radio and television advertisements all rounded out a very successful communications element.
“One partner that was very key was VIACOM [Canada –later changed to CBS Outdoor],” said Lowenger. “That was an incredible project that was funded by D2006. We got funding to do the videos, vignettes, and posters, and then we got millions of dollars of free time and space. That had an amazing impact.”
This also involved a number of sports celebrities from across Canada. Public Service Announcements included NHL hockey players, CFL football players, professional racecar drivers, and leading Canadian musical stars.
“We had a lot of people on the media side that wanted to help us,” Lowenger said. “A lot of people saw the value of Direction 2006 and its efforts to save lives across Canada.”
Now, with the Direction 2006 initiative completed, it is easy to look back and see the important impact that it had across Canada.
The program put Canada on the international stage in terms of railway safety, with both industrialized and developing countries from around the world looking to the Canadian example on how to reduce crossing collisions and trespass incidents in their own countries.
In fact, the 2006 9th Annual Crossing Safety and Trespass Prevention Symposium was held in Montreal, Quebec, and brought Direction 2006 to the forefront in the international community.
“D2006 was one of the reasons why the international committee decided to pick Montreal,” Di Tota said about the conference. “They wanted to showcase what was done here. It really allowed Canada to stand out and to showcase itself with a lot of pride.”
Beyond that, the program still remains an excellent example of bringing together different stakeholders and achieving results. For those involved in the program, this remains a tremendous point of pride.
“This was a multi-stakeholder program from day one,” said Lowenger. “There was interest there throughout the ten years and there was a fair structure to keep everyone involved. When you consider the number of stakeholders involved in the background, it was a very well run program.”
This was reiterated by Di Tota, who explained that the multiple stakeholders allowed for brainstorming and new ideas to be brought to the table.
“There were a lot of different entities involved,” he said. “But we strove to work together in meeting our goals, delivering our message and sharing our knowledge.”
Moving forward, it has become clear that programs like Direction 2006 are essential when discussing something that involves so many partners and stakeholders. It has provided a template for future initiatives and discussion for a range of issues.
And while the real goal was not met—crossing collisions decreased by 26 per cent and trespass incidents decreased by 34 per cent—the numbers do not take into account the increased road traffic, trucking traffic and rail traffic that occurred during that same period.
Now, with new ideas being put forward about how to build on such a successful program, those involved with Direction 2006 can look back with pride on the work that they did.
“I’m proud that the program helped to save lives, reduced risks, increased the quality of lives in communities across Canada and made Canada a world leader in trespassing prevention,” said Drouin.
The program also set the stage for future cooperation in rail safety.
“It allowed us to focus and put a concerted effort to try and get things done,” said Di Tota. “At the end of the day, this allowed us to help reduce those crossing collisions and trespass incidents.”
Finally, the program ensured that rail safety and the issue surrounding it were being examined closely, and that initiative was being taken to make things better for everyone involved.
“New partners, new technology and new research,” said Lowenger. “It gave us the impetus to do lots of things and make a difference.”