Memorandum by the Track Safety Strategy
Group (RI 24)
My primary interest is in infrastructure plant
and equipment, both for the permanent railway infrastructure and
for use of contractors undertaking work. Some time ago I formed
the opinion that The Railway and Other Transport Systems (Approval
of Works Plant & Equipment) Regulations 1994 were not being
fully used, and in particular that Clauses 8 and 10, referring
to dispensations and cross-acceptance from Europe, were being
resisted by the Industry, effectively forming additional trade
barriers with Europe.
It is true to say that despite proposals to
develop the railway infrastructure in the UK, both Railtrack and
HMRI leave infrastructure products at the "bottom of the
heap". I attach some notes from a recent one-day conference
which I Chaired, attended by around 50 people from the Industry,
at which these views were confirmed. In specific cases, track
safety warning systems have been waiting four years and more for
acceptance. As stated by one of the speakers, there have been
37 fatal accidents to track staff in 15 yearsmost of which
could have been prevented by European equipment, the oldest of
which has been in use in Europe since 1978. Indeed, this particular
item of equipment was approved in February 1998 by Railtrack,
but is still awaiting HMRI approval.
Track Safety Stragey Group
TYPE APPROVAL AND PRODUCT ACCEPTANCE
On 28 June 2000 Colin Wheeler chaired a conference
on the above subject, arranged by Commercial Seminars in collaboration
with the Track Safety Strategy Group.
With promises from Railtrack of an extra £1
billion to be spent on the infrastructure in 2001, the need for
innovation and new equipment sources has not been greater since
railways were first built. More work means more workers, and consequently
more people at risk. Hence, the approval/acceptance of better
safety warning systems is crucial.
After keynote talks by Railtrack's Deputy Director,
Safety & Standards, Aidan Nelson; and Head of Safety &
Risk, Keith Watson, which exposed the potential safety consequences
of not moving things through the processes of HMRI and Railtrack
Line more effectively, Roger Short (Assistance Chief Inspector
of Railways) explained the HMRI position with restricted resources,
and their consequent need to filter and limit the number of products
considered. The need for the expansion of resources was identified,
and the post-January 1 2000 charging regime was noted. He stated
the process should be positivenot simply the granting of
approval when the technical experts couldn't think of any more
objections to raise. He agreed that the Inspectorate's interpretation
of the Railways and Other Transport Systems (Approvals of Works,
Plant and Equipment) Regulations 1994 needed further examination.
In particular, he referred to dispensations and cross-acceptance
(Clauses 8 and 10).
Peter Anderson, Railtrack Product Acceptance
Manager, explained the process for gaining product acceptance
from Railtrack. This would include the requirement for a sponsor
from within the rail industry, to ensure that only products for
which there was an identified need for use on Railtrack's infrastructure
would be processed. A booklet entitled "A Concise Guide to
Product Acceptance" has been published and was made available
Colin Brading (Head of Infrastructure, Office
of the Rail Regulator) explained the Regulator's role in promoting
the network and the provision of an economic framework. He explained
that the 5-yearly review, setting targets for output and efficiency,
would "shape the industry from April 2001". He spoke
of the opportunities and challenges involved in improving performance
and producing a more reliable infrastructure. He advised that
the Regulator's expectation is for steadily improving outputs
from the network, and that a successful product acceptance process
is therefore critical to the implementation of change. He also
spoke of the Regulator's powers to enforce licences and the March
1998 Competition Act. He highlighted its provisions in the prohibition
of restrictive practices and the abuse of dominant market position.
Investigating complaints, imposing measures and penalties, granting
exemption, and giving advice on competition issues are all matters
for the Regulator.
Finally, Colin Brading suggested that approvals
and acceptance processes had to be "Safe, Simple, Quicker,
Fair and Clear".
Ken Mee (Engineering Director, Balfour Beatty
Rail Maintenance) suggested that rail contractors and suppliers
have a duty to identify good innovative ideas. He said that safety
and profitability were always the top objectives. A "can
do" attitude, he suggested, was necessary to bring about
method and culture changes. He agreed with Roger Short of HMRI
that engineers trying to outdo each other with "clever"
questions had no place in the approvals process.
He stated that product "Safety Cases"
had to become simpler without losing the focus on risk assessment,
reducing risks to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP) and
technical issues. He considered the needs of people in working
methods and training to be part of the process.
Ken Mee then highlighted current confusions:
HQ Railtrack Review Panels and Professional Heads of Engineering,
or up to seven Zonal Safety Review Groupseach with their
own engineers! Also the indeterminate involvement of HMRI and
whether this simply resulted in "no objection". He spoke
of the risksthe price of getting it wrong and risk to intellectual
property rights. He concluded by stating that he thought, believed
and recommended that the Industry must develop a simplified way
of introducing new products, innovations and methods.
Brian Mansell of Track Warning AB, Sweden, spoke
of his painful and costly experience in seeking to gain UK approvals.
Track Warning AB started as a small product development company
but had to diversify to survive. Without financial sponsorship
by two major UK rail infrastructure companies Brian Mansell said
he would have given up three years ago. (After four years he is
currently awaiting the acceptance of a product safety case.) His
company's equipment started out seeking UK approval. Trialing
has now taken place in a number of other countries where the equipment
is now in use and orders are being received.
Roy Hickman of Infra Safety Services spoke of
his own experience of almost a decade of striving to gain acceptance
of equipment through the approval process. He reminded the Conference
of earlier remarks made in the keynote speech by Aidan Nelson,
that 37 fatal accidents to track workers during the last 15 years
could have been prevented if warning systems, rigid barriers,
etc had been in use. He questioned why we were still all hesitating
and spoke of the human emotions involved when the person killed
is known to you.
After an open question and answer session, Colin
Wheeler (Chairman) summed up. He spoke of the agreement that the
process needed improvement; that a changing HMRI needed adequate
resources and a clear view on its role in acceptance processes;
also that interpretation of the 1994 Act in respect of cross-acceptances
from Europe and the exercising of dispensations were both urgent
matters. Meanwhile, other countries are avoiding entry into the
UK rail market place.
Finally, the Chairman thanked HMRI, Railtrack
and the Regulator for agreeing to take specific matters forward,
and invited all present to contact him personally if there were
further matters they would like to see progressed. He then closed
the Conference, thanking Commercial Seminars for the excellent