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I have observed CN Rail Police performing traffic stops on vehicles on public roads – and a friend was recently issued a speeding ticket by them, again on a public road. What is their authority is to do so? They are agents of a private corporation and these stops appear to have nothing to do with CN business. Why is CN paying its officers to do the work of the local municipal force? – Gerry, Sarnia, Ont.

Don't want to be railroaded into a ticket? Then don't speed near CN tracks, the company says.

"Speeding is illegal in Ontario," says CN spokesman Pierre Bergeron in an e-mail statement. "CN Police have the responsibility to enforce the safety of the public and of CN on and around CN property."

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Railway constables working for CN and, most recently, Via Rail have the same powers as every other police officer in Canada. They can detain, arrest, use force and search.

"They can, in fact, stop a person or vehicle and issue a ticket," Bergeron says. "If a person does not comply with them, as they have full police power, the person could be arrested for obstructing a police officer under the Criminal Code of Canada."

That power is not new – we've had railway police since before Confederation.

500 metres

Section 44 of the Railway Safety Act gives railway constables the authority to enforce federal and provincial laws.

But, there are a couple of catches.

Railway constables only have jurisdiction within 500 metres of railway property. And, they can only enforce the law as it relates to the protection of their property and the people on it.

So, why is CN paying its officers to do the work of the local police force?

"CN Police are not working with us or for us," says Sarnia Police spokesman Const. Leslie Jones. "They have a very large rail yard and an international crossing that they police here in Sarnia as well as CN rail lines."

Bergeron says catching drivers who break the Highway Traffic Act is "all about safety."

"Drivers who do not obey railway crossing protection signs and signals are putting themselves at risk, and endangering our crews and operations," he says.

Some rail police facts to, er, choo on

  • CN Police has 85 sworn police officers in Canada and 38 in the United States.
  • They can carry guns.
  • Officers must have completed basic police training from a recognized police college. 
  • The company won't say how many traffic tickets they give out.
  • GO Transit’s Transit Safety Officers aren’t governed by the Railway Safety Act — they're special constables under Ontario’s Police Services Act. They can direct traffic near lines, but they can’t stop vehicles, Metrolinx says.

Should we be railing against train cops writing speeding tickets? Or, do you think they're on the right track? Join the conversation.

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