Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary note by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (PRF 35B)


  Thank you for your letter of 23 October in which you asked for a note in response to Miss McIntosh's query about who would be criminally responsible in the event of a rail accident following the new arrangements being planned to finance and project manage improvements to the rail network.

  The arrangements for Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) are still being developed and may well vary for different projects, depending on the type of project and the parties involved. Under a "Design, Build, Fund and Transfer" project, the assets constructed will be transferred to Railtrack (or its successor) on completion. Thus the new assets will be operated under the safety case of Railtrack or its successor. During construction the normal safety legislation will apply, with Railtrack or its successor remaining responsible for the operation of the network and the contractors working on the upgrade having the appropriate safety case.

  The Committee will be aware that there are many causes of rail accidents and an accident on a new section of infrastructure built using an SPV could, for example, be a broken rail, a broken train wheel, a driver passing a signal at danger, a faulty signal, a vehicle falling onto the track, or whatever. The accident investigators would need to establish the cause and, if it were considered that a criminal offence may have been committed, it would be for the courts to determine liability.

5 November 2001

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