Of all the railway networks in the world, Canada's is the third largest and transports the fourth largest volume of goods. Every year, Canadian railways move 70% of the country's surface goods (including 40% of its exports) and carry 70 million people, meeting motorists and pedestrians at thousands of public and private crossings.

In 2011, 1023 rail accidents were reported to the TSB, down 5% from 1076 in 2010 and down 15% from an average of 1198 in the period 2006–2010. Freight trains accounted for 71% of all trains in accidents in 2011, followed by single cars/cuts of cars with 9%; 6% of the accidents involved passenger trains.

In 2011, 17% of rail accidents involved vehicles or pedestrians at rail crossings, nearly unchanged from 18% over the previous 5 years. The safe interaction between railway operations and the public has been the subject of numerous TSB investigations and continues to present opportunities for safety improvements through the identification and elimination of risks.

Investigations in the rail mode touch on a wide variety of subjects, such as operational decision making, risk management, component failure, supervision, metallurgy and track train dynamics.