Annual Survey on Rail Transportation (AR)

Detailed information for 2023





Record number:


This survey collects data from common carrier railways operating in Canada which are essential for the analysis of the Railway Transport Industry and the assessment of its contribution to the Canadian economy. These data provide input into the Canadian System of National Accounts for the calculation of the gross domestic product and are used by various government departments to develop policy and to monitor the industry.


The survey collects annual financial, operating and employment data on railways operating in Canada. The data are used as input to the Canadian System of National Accounts, by Transport Canada, other federal and provincial departments, and by transportation companies, consulting firms, universities and foreign governments. The information is used for the analysis of transportation activity, for marketing and economic studies, as well as industry performance measures.

Statistical activity

The survey is administered as part of the Integrated Business Statistics Program (IBSP). The IBSP has been designed to integrate approximately 200 separate business surveys into a single master survey program. The IBSP aims at collecting industry and product detail at the provincial level while minimizing overlap between different survey questionnaires. The redesigned business survey questionnaires have a consistent look, structure and content.

The integrated approach makes reporting easier for firms operating in different industries because they can provide similar information for each branch operation. This way they avoid having to respond to questionnaires that differ for each industry in terms of format, wording and even concepts. The combined results produce more coherent and accurate statistics on the economy.

This statistical activity is part of a set of surveys measuring various aspects of activities related to the movement of people and goods. These surveys are grouped as follows:

Transportation by air includes records related to the movement of aircraft, passengers and cargo by air for both Canadian and foreign air carriers operating in Canada as well as the financial and operating characteristics of Canadian air carriers. These data are produced by the Aviation Statistics Centre.

Transportation by rail includes records relating to rail transportation in Canada, and between the United States and Canada.

Transportation by road includes records relating to all road transport in Canada. In addition to surveying carriers and owners of registered motor vehicles, certain programs rely on aggregation of provincial and territorial administrative records.

Reference period: Calendar year

Collection period: April through September of the year after the reference period.


  • Transportation
  • Transportation by rail

Data sources and methodology

Target population

Common carrier railways operating in Canada that provide passenger and freight services. Excluded from the survey are companies that provide rail support services (bridges, terminal services, etc.) and sightseeing tours.

Instrument design

The survey questionnaire was developed in collaboration with specialists from Statistics Canada, Transport Canada and the Canadian railway industry. It comprises financial characteristics such as sources of revenue, expense detail and employment characteristics. Based on contacts with respondents and data users, some modifications have been incorporated into the questionnaires in order to reflect the nature of the industry surveyed. The changes were field tested to ensure that they were reasonable and sustainable. This questionnaire was reviewed to reduce response burden from respondents.


This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.

Data are collected for all units of the target population, therefore no sampling is done. The information on all Canadian rail companies is maintained on the Business Register. Specific fields are used to select carriers for the survey and to group them by homogeneous cells.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2024-03-08 to 2025-02-27

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

Financial and operating statistics are collected from an electronic questionnaire census of common carrier railways operating in Canada. Companies falling under federal jurisdiction report data on schedules or forms, specified by Transport Canada directly to Transport Canada. Other railway carriers report directly to Statistics Canada on the same schedules or forms. Individual reports undergo comprehensive review upon receipt and are edited for consistency and reliability.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .

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