Assistant Editor, Safety & Health Practitioner

August 8, 2019

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Rail Safety

ORR releases annual report on railway safety

The Official Rail and Road (ORR) has published its annual report on railway health and safety, stating three key areas that the industry must work on, over the next year.

railsThe report reconfirmed that Britain’s railway remains one of the safest in Europe however, there is still room for significant improvement. This is due to the number of fatalities that have been reported in the last year.

In the last 12 months, seven passengers have been killed as a result of platform-train interference, while two track workers were killed near Port Talbot in July.

ORR Director of Safety and HM Chief Inspector of Railways, Ian Prosser, expressed that “we would like to extend our sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of Michael Lewis and Gareth Delbridge who lost their lives in the tragic incident near Port Talbot recently. Our investigation is underway. Separately, based on evidence gathered from last year’s inspection programme, we have taken formal enforcement action to secure the wider national improvements needed to protect track workers”.

Trams have prompted concerns in recent years, and as a result ORR will devote greater resource to monitoring their performance for the next 12 months.

Acknowledging the statistics in fatalities in both the passenger and worker side of railway, the ORR report states three main challenges that should be paid close attention to by the industry:

  • Increasing pressure on the system. The introduction of new rolling stock, high passenger demand and issues with performance are placing pressure on the industry’s infrastructure and its people.
  • Technological developments. These are essential for improving safety, performance and value-for-money, but it is vital that proper attention is paid to how people interact with it, and that its introduction is properly resourced and managed.
  • Supporting our people. Staff are critical for safety and are often the last line of defence. The industry is showing welcome improvement in recognising the importance of occupational health and mental health but change within the industry can add to pressure on people and that must be managed well.

Other issues ORR will be focusing on for 2019/2020 include, the increase in the number of potentially severe Signals Passed at Danger (SPADs), and platform-train interface which remains the greatest cause of harm to passengers in mainline railways and second on London Underground.

ORR also made mention of occupational health, stating that it is a vital sector for the future of the industry, and that the new code of practice on fatigue management produced by the National Freight Safety Group.

“We are facing significant challenges not least around new rolling stock, the platform-train interface and trespass, and the whole industry must work together to ensure that safety standards are not allowed to slip” said Ian.

The need for continued focus on safety is reinforced by the increasing pressure on the network, as the industry deals with the introduction of hundreds of new trains, and foreseeable consequences of disruption, which could create further risks for staff as demands will increase.

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