Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Balfour Beatty (RER 02)


  Balfour Beatty is working closely with Railtrack, the Health & Safety Executive and all other involved parties to determine the cause of the tragic accident at Hatfield and to understand the contributing factors.

  Inevitably, there has been much speculation about the cause of the accident and the events in the period leading up to it.

  The relevant investigations will take some time to complete and will involve reviewing and analysing a vast amount of data and a wide range of related issues. At this stage, it may be misleading to focus attention on any particular aspect of the investigation until its context is properly understood. While it is clear that mistakes have been made, no clear indication yet exists as to which aspects of the operations, maintenance and renewals process and which events were critical in leading to the accident.

  Balfour Beatty regards the health and safety of its employees and anyone who could be affected by its activities as of fundamental importance. The Board regularly receives and reviews reports from group companies on safety matters. All the group's constituent companies operate under the discipline of robust, risk-based, safety management systems, which are appraised on a regular basis in order to meet best practice objectives.

  As a result of the development of a strong safety culture within the group, Balfour Beatty's safety performance, already good, has improved significantly over the past 10 years. For instance, in the period 1994-99, the group's safety performance improved by more than 40 per cent and this year the company achieved a reduction of over 20 per cent in its insurance premiums as a direct result of this trend. In addition, 20,000 man days of safety training are organised each year within the group.

  Balfour Beatty's commitment to implementing rigorous safety procedures has been recognised on several occasions by independent bodies.

  In 1999, the company's work on the most complex sector of the Jubilee Line was awarded the British Safety Council's Sword of Honour. In two major businesses acquired from the public sector in the period since 1994, the application of Balfour Beatty's safety management systems has substantially improved the acquired companies' safety performance. Furthermore, this year our Major Projects business has won the RoSPA Gold Award for achieving three successive years of substantial improvement in occupational safety performance.

  Despite the priority given to Health and Safety throughout the group, we have occasionally lapsed from our very high standards. In some instances, this has led to prosecutions. Such incidents are the subject of painstaking internal investigations and the lessons learned have been thoroughly integrated into policy, procedures and practice.

  Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance, that part of the group currently responsible for maintenance on the East Coast Main Line and several other contract areas, uses a Safety Management System which is based on the widely recognised International Safety Rating System. All of its contract areas have achieved a level five score on this system, a standard of compliance achieved by virtually no other user of the system, which include many large, safety-critical companies. Each contract area has achieved level five after starting at level zero at the time of privatisation.

  The company employs approximately 300 track inspectors and 65 ultrasonic rail testing staff. Over the last two years, Track Quality Exceedences have been reduced to less than a third of their 1997 levels in maintenance areas for which we are responsible.

  Accident frequency rates have more than halved in the companies comprising Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance over the last five years. This has been achieved despite very significant increases in rail traffic in those areas maintained by BBRM. Over the last two years, train performance on those sections of the track maintained by Balfour Beatty has improved by more than 20 per cent.

  Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance had its Assurance Case, which describes its Safety, Quality and Environmental arrangements, endorsed by Railtrack in August 2000. This followed the regular annual and product specific audits conducted by Railtrack.

  Balfour Beatty is working closely with Railtrack in its current nationwide programme of inspection and rerailing work.

10 November 2000

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 13 December 2000