Colin J. Churcher

I have had a very satisfying career in railways, both from the hands on, practical aspect, as well as from the point of view of government. I am a good leader and have undertaken a number of major challenges in over twenty nine years with the Canadian government. I have always enjoyed looking at railways and this, coupled with a great spirit of adventure, has taken me to many interesting parts of the world. 


BORN 1942 at Orpington, Kent, England.

Eltham College, London, England, 1953 - 1960.
University of Reading, England, 1960 - 1963. Graduated with BA degree, honours in Political Economy.

LANGUAGES - English, French, some Spanish.

CITIZENSHIP - Dual Canadian and British.

CAREER - From University, I joined British Railways on a two year Management Training Course. I was then appointed Assistant Station Manager, Reading. Then followed a posting as Project Officer, Fishguard Harbour and finally I became Area Manager, Haverfordwest where I was responsible for all railway operating and commercial functions in South West Wales.

I moved to Ottawa, Canada in 1968 as a Research Economist with the Canadian Transport Commission and transferred to Transport Canada in 1971 as a Program Evaluation Officer. I moved into the grain transportation field in 1975 and was responsible for a large ($1.3 billion) branch line rehabilitation program as well as the purchase of 15,000 grain hopper cars. In 1986 I became Director General, Railway Safety, being responsible for writing and passing into law the Railway Safety Act. From 1989 I was responsible for the safe regulation of Canadian railways through the administration of the legislation.

I have advised provincial and other governments on railway safety regulation and, in particular, relations between the railway and the regulator.

INTERESTS - My main interests are music, photography, nature, reading and the study of railways. My work related and personal interest in railways has involved travel to the United Kingdom, Europe, Soviet Union, Canada, USA, Caribbean, Central and Latin America, Australia, China, Africa and the Pacific.


2009  Preparation of City of Ottawa Railway Historical Exhibit (Historian)
I prepared data for a significant exhibition in the City of Ottawa Exhibition Gallery "Track Changes: 150 years of Rail Transportation in Ottawa". This entailed  writing  material for the exhibition panels as well as selection of illustrations and writing captions.

2005-2006  Expert Witness (Railway Safety)
I analysed, from a safety perspective, two railway crossing accident cases on behalf of  Canadian Pacific Railway.

  Expert witness (Railway Historian and Safety)
Application for absolute title to certain lands by St. Lawrence and Ottawa Railway Company.

2003   Advisor on Railway Safety to Government of Bolivia
I wrote a complete set of railway safety regulations for the Superintendencia de Transportes.

2003   Advisor on Railway Legislation to Government of Uganda
I assisted in the drafting of a Railway Act for Uganda.

2003   Advisor to Jamaica Railway Corporation
This was a volunteer project in which I established a data base for and trained staff in cataloguing the engineering drawings, plans, profiles and maps of the Jamaica Railway Corporation.

2002-3 Advisor on Transport Regulation to Government of Jamaica
I reviewed proposals for and made recommendations on the establishment of an Accident Investigation Board for Jamaica and assisted in the development of a National Transport Policy.

2002 Advisor on Railway Safety to Government of Bolivia
I continued working with on railway safety regulation with the Superintendencia de Transportes. I carried out  inspections of the railway system and made recommendations concerning safety and maintenance practices, as well as requirements for regulations.

2000 Advisor on Regulatory matters to Government of Peru
I identified problem areas in the newly established Office of Transport Oversight (OSITRAN) and gave seminars on Railway Rehabilitation and Railway Safety Regulation.

1999  Advisor on Railway Safety and Rehabilitation to Government of Panama
I examined plans to rebuild the railway and identified potential problem areas of conflict with government proposals.

1998-9 Advisor on Regulatory matters to Government of Bolivia
I identified problem areas in the Superintendencia General and the Superintendencias de Electricidad, Aguas and Telecomunicaciones.  Recommended a program of railway safety regulation to the Superintendencia de Transportes. I carried out a full inspection of the railway system and made recommendations concerning safety and maintenance practices.

1997 Commissioner, VIA Rail Safety Commission
Responsible to examine into and report upon all aspects of safety on the passenger operations of VIA Rail Canada.

1995 to 1997. Director General, Railway Legislation, Transport Canada
Responsible for all aspects of railway legislation with specific responsibility for the writing of and passage into legislation of amendments to the Railway Safety Act. This work involved identifying the concepts for the legislation and I then negotiated concensus among all the parties concerned including railway companies, railway labour, municipalities, provincial governments and others. I then obtained cabinet approval, following which I supervised the drafting of the proposed law by legislative draftsmen. I steered the introduction of the bill (draft law) into Parliament during which period I worked with legislators by appearing before the parliamentary committee reviewing the bill.

1986 to 1995. Director General, Railway Safety, Transport Canada
From 1986 to 1988 I wrote and passed into law the Railway Safety Act. This entailed:
    developing the philosophy;
    negotiating and obtaining consensus with railways, unions, shippers, governments and others;
    drafting the bill;
    consulting with parliamentarians;
    appearing before committees of both House of Commons and the Senate. 
The philosophy underlying the legislation has broken new ground. A concept was developed under which the industry can write its own rules. This has been examined as a model for regulation of other industries and was used in the drafting of the New South Wales Railway Safety Act.

The Railway Safety Act became law in January 1989 at which time I became responsible for its administration. With a staff of 130 people in Ottawa and across the country (budget $20m approx.), I was responsible for:

    writing rules and regulations so as to ensure safe railway operation;
    managing programs to monitor railway safety performance;
    ensuring compliance where threats to safety are identified, and;
    initiating safety improvements where appropriate.
I have advised provincial and other governments on railway safety regulation and, in particular, relations between the railway and the regulator.

1975 - 1986 Director, Grain Transportation, Transport Canada
My responsibilities ranged widely from farm gate to country elevator, to the railway system and the port complexes. Key aspects included;
    acquiring 15,000 hopper cars for grain transportation (approx. $600 million);
    rehabilitation of a large part of the Prairie branch line network ($1.3 billion);
    developing a new grain rate structure and participating in the drafting of grain transport legislation.
During this time I participated in a Railway Mission to Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay and led a mission of Argentine grain handling experts.

1971 - 1975 Program Evaluation Officer, Transport Canada
I initiated, planned and conducted detailed economic studies to evaluate the effect of proposals on the railway industry and the Canadian economy. Major tasks included a project to extend railway construction in northern British Columbia and an evaluation of the effect of moving a railway division point. During this time I was government representative on delegations visiting France and the Soviet Union with a view to more fully understanding the rail systems of those two countries.

1970 - 1971 Senior Statistician, Canadian Transport Commission
I directed a small group which planned, developed and conducted studies into railway statistical and costing principles.

1968 - 1971 Program Evaluation, Canadian Transport Commission
I assessed the implications of proposals to discontinue passenger train services and abandon branch lines. These evaluations were used in decisions of the Commission.

1968 Area Manager, British Railways, Haverfordwest
I was responsible for the railway operation and customer relations in West Wales. With approximately 150 staff, I:
    supervised daily operations and took charge during emergencies;
    enforced rules and regulations relating to train operation;
    developed relations with customers, and;
    initiated and conducted negotiations at the local level with trade unions.

1967 - 1968 Project Officer, British Railways, Fishguard
I developed a scheme to improve facilities for the handling of containers and roll-on roll-off vehicle traffic at Fishguard Harbour. This included consultation with technical departments to develop a feasible scheme and assessment of the market to project revenues and produce a financial justification (Discounted Cash Flow).

1965 - 1967 Assistant Station Manager, British Railways, Reading
I was responsible to the Station Manager for the efficient day to day operation of a large station handling 450 trains per day. I devised and implemented improved methods of operation; examined staff in operating rules; developed relations with the Post Office; met members of the public; investigated complaints and took charge in emergencies.

1963 - 1965 Management Trainee, British Railways
During this period I gained an insight into all aspects of railway operation, engineering and accounting as well as basic management techniques. Practical training included periods at passenger and goods stations, marshaling yards, maintenance depots as well as regional and headquarters offices. Project work included the implementation of a scheme to issue tickets on trains and eliminate station staff as well as taking over as temporary Area Manager and assuming full responsibility for the post.

1961 and 1962 Temporary Fireman, British Railways
During my summer vacations I fired steam and diesel hauled trains from Reading (1962) and Shoeburyness (1961). A knowledge of overhead electrification was required as well as the operating rules.


In 1970, I became involved in a community project to establish a bus service in Ottawa. Four of us hired the busses and sold tickets. My speciality was ticketing and timetabling. This was highly successful and we eventually negotiated a takeover by the municipality. I appeared in court to defend a license application.

In 1973, I was seconded to the National Capital Commission to bring a steam locomotive and train to Ottawa. Under a very tight deadline, I made all arrangements necessary to establish the tourist train to Wakefield, Quebec.

From 1970 to 1989, I held a number of positions, including President, with the Bytown Railway Society. During this time I learnt a number of skills including ways to motivate volunteers.


The Short Line Concept - An Answer to the Prairie Branch Line Problem? October 1975.
Prairie Rail Linkage Proposals. Joint author with J. Ed. Reynolds. July 1977.
Some Perspectives on the Crow's Nest Pass Rate
With A.E. Berry and D.C. Hackston. A paper read at the annual convention of the Canadian Transportation Research Forum - Regina 1983.
Canadian Trackside Guide.
This has been published annually by the Bytown Railway Society since 1983. Joint author with others.
A Guide to Ottawa's Railway Heritage. Bytown Railway Society, 1977.
Railway Seminars in Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina - November 1984
Mission to France and Sweden - February 1993
Railway Safety Regulation Seminar, Argentina - April 1994
Federal - Provincial Railway Safety Regulation - September 13, 1994
A report for the Council of Deputy Ministers of Transport
Bolivia - Sistema de regulacion sectorial - Informe de voluntario lider/Lead volunteer advisor report, CESO/SACO assignment 20760, July 1998.
Bolivia - Superintendencia de Transportes - Reglamento de seguridad ferroviaria en Bolivia/Railway Safety Regulation in Bolivia, CES/SACO assignment 21082, July 1998.
Bolivia - Superintendencia de Transportes - Rehabilitacion del ferrocarril/railway rehabilitation, CESO/SACO assignment 21082, July 1998.
Bolivia - Superintendencia de Transportes - Estableciemento de Normas de seguridad ferroviaria/Establishment of Railway Safety Standards - Inspection reports, CESO/SACO assignment 21227, December 1998.
Bolivia - Sistema de regulacion sectorial - Informe de seguimiento de voluntario lider/lead volunteer advisor follow up report, CESO/SACO assignment 22062, May 1999.
Heather Ann Guppy vs. Agence Metropolitaine de transport et al. Expert witness, 1999.
Panama - Autoridad de la Region Interoceanico (ARI)  Railway Rehabilitation and its Implications on Projects of the Autoridad de la Region Interoceanico, CESO/SACO October 1999.
CN vs. Fisher et al. Expert witness, December 1999.
For a full listing of the many articles I have written on railway and transport subjects, together with full text and illustrations please see:

Updated January 2014