Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence

Memorandum by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (FOR 123)


  1.  The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) is owned by the rail industry and is a not for profit body. It was established on 1 April 2003 in response to a recommendation made by Lord Cullen.

  2.  Our policies and management arrangements are driven by the primary purpose of RSSB, which is set out in the members' agreement under which we are constituted (Constitution Agreement). The agreement states that RSSB's primary purpose is:

    "To lead and facilitate the railway industry's work to achieve continuous improvement in the health and safety performance of the railways in Great Britain and thus to facilitate the reduction of risk to passengers, employees and the public so far as reasonably practicable, so aiding compliance by providers of railway services with their obligations under health and safety law."

  3.  RSSB membership comprises 57 businesses, including all the major duty holders in the national rail industry. Membership is split into six categories consisting of passenger train operators, non-passenger train operator (freight), Network Rail, rolling stock owners, infrastructure contractors and suppliers.

  4.  The Board of RSSB comprises 12 non-executive and three executive directors. The non executive directors consist of a non-industry Chairman, four independent non-industry directors, a director nominated by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA), and six rail industry directors, one from each of the categories of RSSB membership. The executive directors consist of a chief executive, two other executive directors and RSSB is made up of approximately 180 staff. RSSB's corporate governance structure is set out in the appendix. RSSB has approximately 180 staff. The Rail Regulator, the SRA and the HSE all receive Board papers and have a right to attend and address Board meetings. The Health and Safety Executive has exercised its right to attend and speak at Board meetings. This engagement with the safety regulator is seen positively by RSSB.

  5.  A more broadly based Advisory Committee is in place to enable the input of the trades unions, the Rail Passengers Council and other stakeholders not otherwise represented on the Board.

  6.  It is the view of RSSB that the relationships between members and RSSB are fundamental to the achievement of the primary purpose, and that these are developing in a positive manner. RSSB is also developing strong and constructive relationships with the HSE, SRA and ORR. There is a recognition among our stakeholders that RSSB can develop in a way that leads to it delivering increasing value to the management of safety risks within the context of the wider business risks faced by the industry.

  7.  In discharging our primary purpose RSSB's principle functions include:

    —  Co-ordinating the production of the Railway Group Safety Plan.

    —  Managing Railway Group Standards.

    —  Facilitating and managing a programme of health and safety research and development.

    —  Facilitating the UK rail industry involvement in the development of European legislation and standards.

    —  Monitoring, reporting and informing on health and safety performance trends (including producing an Annual Safety Performance Report).

    —  Helping the industry learn the safety lessons from accidents through organising independent inquiries and tracking industry responses to recommendations.

    —  Disseminating and encouraging good practice and encouraging and facilitating co-operation in each case on health and safety matters in the railway industry.

    —  Maintaining and developing the rail industry's safety risk model.

    —  Facilitating and supporting a range of "common purpose" national initiatives including those relating to SPAD (Signals passed at danger) management, level crossing safety, track worker safety, route crime and a safety leadership programme.

  8.  All of RSSB's activities are mandated on RSSB by its members through the Constitution Agreement. Adding or subtracting activities is subject to approval by the members and the Regulator. In combining together to cause RSSB to deliver these functions, the industry has provided an efficient way to address some of their safety responsibilities.

  9.  RSSB is conscious that safety is perceived by many to be responsible for an increasing cost burden being carried by the rail industry. Standards are often cited as the reason for cost rises or for inflexible working. RSSB believes that managing safety is an integral part of management and that safety risk is an integral part of business risk. Controlling the cost of safety is therefore fundamentally about good business management.

  10.  We recognise that in both our standards, and other core functions, we can play a key role in helping the industry to achieve cost effective safety and performance improvement. Since our creation in April 2003 we have begun working with our members to achieve those objectives and are taking the lead in several initiatives, some of which are set out in paragraphs 11 to 16.

  11.  Standards—On 19 January 2004 a new set of rules for the creation and modification of Railway Group Standards will come into effect. Known as the Railway Group Standards Code the rules were developed in a collaborative industry-working group, widely consulted upon, and approved by a 100% vote among our members. They provide for a greater industry involvement in the process to justify and develop changes in standards. Under the new rules, the content of all standards changes will be agreed by groups whose members are drawn from all parts of the industry and will be justified against objective criteria—thus giving the whole industry the opportunity to more directly affect the contents of Railway Group Standards. From this month all Railway Group Standards will be available freely via the Internet.

  12.  We are also working with the industry to review and further enhance the process by which Railway Group Standards are justified and developed so as to better meet the needs of the industry and those that fund it. This work is being done in close association with Network Rail, who are reviewing their own arrangements for company standards and also to better align Railway Group Standards with the emerging European Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs).

  13.  RSSB is leading the development of a safety strategy for the "national" railway that will provide a more effective strategic framework within which the established Railway Group Safety Plan will be developed and updated annually.

  14.  RSSB is managing an enabling project to help the industry develop and apply agreed safety decision criteria. This work is not only about safety; the decision criteria have major implications for other industry outputs such as capacity, performance and efficiency.

  15.  RSSB is developing arrangements that will facilitate the industry optimising the management of key system interfaces.

  16.  RSSB is facilitating the engagement of the rail industry in European initiatives, particularly relating to interoperability and enhancing the level of scrutiny that is applied to justifying standards. Over the next few years TSIs will specify an increasing proportion of the industry's interfaces, and, accordingly, the role of Railway Group Standards is expected to reduce. RSSB's focus is therefore likely to shift toward helping the industry input to the development of TSIs and integrating them into the national network.

  17.  Network Rail is one of the 57 members of RSSB and has a non-executive director on our Board. Many senior Network Rail personnel participate as members of technical Subject Committees that oversee the development of Railway Group Standards. The formal relationship with the HSE is their right to be an observer at our Board Meetings and to be consulted on a range of RSSB activities. Many contacts exist at the operating level with Network Rail and the HSE, as well as with the SRA, ORR, train operators (passenger and freight), industry suppliers and many other stakeholders. RSSB is also a member of the Standards Strategy Group (SSG) which is chaired by the SRA.

  18.  RSSB recognises the extent to which railway safety issues have, in recent years, been a matter of public concern. Furthermore our ongoing engagement with stakeholders (part of the process to develop a railway safety strategy) is highlighting the fact that senior managers in the industry consider that the amplification in the media of these concerns creates a climate within which there is an aversion to safety risk. Recent high profile prosecutions have also had an effect. Many of the initiatives mentioned in this memorandum are designed to support the development of both competence and a greater confidence within the industry in taking decisions that affect safety, and in exercising engineering and operational judgement.

Rail Safety and Standards Board

January 2004

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