Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence

Further memorandum by Network Rail (FOR 57A)



  1.1  Network Rail is the Infrastructure Controller for the mainline railways of England, Wales and Scotland. Network Rail is responsible for the safe and efficient signalling of trains; operation of managed stations; and maintenance and renewal of the rail infrastructure. In its capacity as Infrastructure Controller, Network Rail is also responsible for the scrutiny of train operators safety cases and the monitoring of their safety performance.

  1.2  In order to operate, Network Rail is required to hold a Railway Safety Case accepted by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). The Safety Case sets out how Network Rail will safely manage its operation. Network Rail is also required to have a license from the Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR). This amongst other things, requires Network Rail to comply with Railway Group Standards, abide by the Railway Group Standards Code and be an active member of the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB).

  1.3  The HSE, through Her Majesty's Rail Inspectorate (HMRI) is the safety regulator for Network Rail and undertakes the following activities:

    —  Assesses and formally accepts the Network Rail Railway Safety Case.

    —  Monitors and enforces compliance by Network Rail with its Railway Safety Case and legislation.

    —  Approves new works and equipment before use by Network Rail.

    —  Investigates serious incidents and accidents.

    —  Monitors progress with public inquiry recommendations.

    —  Develops and reviews rail safety legislation.

  Network Rail has a proactive programme of HSE liaison at all levels in the company to address both operational issues and strategic changes.

  1.4  Network Rail is one of the leading members of RSSB, the rail industry safety leadership body. Network Rail supports RSSB by provision of:

    —  a Board member;

    —  specialised personnel to help develop Railway Group Standards; and

    —  input to the development of the Railway Group Safety Plan and safety strategies.


  The organisation roles and responsibilities for management of safety in Network Rail are contained in the company's accepted Railway Safety Case. In simple terms, responsibility for day to day delivery of safety rest with frontline managers through an Area and Regional structure. At the forefront of safety delivery are Network Rail signallers, controllers and maintenance delivery staff who are required to undertake their duties in accordance with company procedures, standards, the National Rule Book and Railway Group Standards.

  Frontline personnel are supported by technical specialists in each Region and at Headquarters who set the control framework and monitor its application. The company has established a tactical and strategic meeting structure to review safety performance and provide a platform for continuous improvement. The company also possesses specialist resources to undertake root cause investigation into relevant health and safety incidents or issues.

  In addition, the company strictly controls changes to its infrastructure, methods of working and organisation through the Safety Case validation process operated by the dedicated Board member for Safety.


  Network Rail believes that passengers should be able to consider safety on the railway to be a given and as such safety is intrinsic to everything we do. Naturally, it is possible to quantify the cost of specific initiatives to improve safety—such as the recently completed fitment of the Train Protection & Warning System (TPWS)—but since the needs of safety arise in every activity we carry out as a company, this does not give a full picture of the "cost of safety".

  The Rail Regulator has recently announced Network Rail's income level for the next five years and with certainty over this funding level the company will now plan specific expenditures over the period to ensure that we continue to provide a safe railway, as well one which is progressively more reliable and more efficient.


  The issue of rail safety costs has become a topical issue along with the perception of a risk averse culture within the industry, however this debate is often characterised by generalisation rather than specifics. In this section, Network Rail briefly sets out what it sees as the issues for the Committee in reviewing this issue.

    4.1  Appendix 1 demonstrates the significantly improving trend of railway safety since 1945. This trend has continued through the privatisation process, yet despite this railways continue to be classified as a "high hazard" industry along with nuclear, offshore oil and chemical industries by the HSE. This classification is questionable as rail does not pose a risk to geographic communities in the same way as these other industries and this designation adversely affects the insurance risk profile/perception with the resultant increases in costs. We believe this to be a significant contributory factor into the rise in Network Rail's annual insurance bill from £25 million-£100 million over the last 12 months. Similar situations exist with many companies across the rail industry.

  4.2  The HSC/HSE are governed by the requirement to address the needs of society and this is referred in their recent paper, "Safety on the Railway: Shaping the Future", on the future of rail safety legislation. It is unclear to Network Rail what the specific societal concerns are concerning rail safety, how they are measured, how these relate to actual safety performance of rail and society's willingness to pay for further improvements. The Committee may wish to consider whether societal concern is in fact being confused with the understandable media reaction when an accident occurs.

  4.3  The HSE is responsible for the enforcement of rail safety but not for safety on any other mode of transport, whether road, aviation or shipping. The Committee may wish to consider whether this situation may tend to an uneven playing field.

  One example of where this uneven playing field may be witnessed relates to level crossings. Network Rail considers that it would be much more cost effective to fit road control measures at level crossings, especially given increasing traffic volumes. However the HSE focus is on level crossing enhancement by Network Rail even though the root cause of almost all accidents is road driver misuse.

  4.4  Network Rail as an employer and Railway Safety Case holder is required to comply with national UK legislation. The extent and range of this legislation is very significant and ranges from general requirements under the Health and Safety and Work Act, rail specific safety legislation as well as general national legislation on employment, health, safety and the environment.

    Network Rail is concerned that rail is facing an ever-increasing burden of European and domestic legislation and the opportunity must be taken to review and simplify the framework. The framework must also recognise the reality of:

    —  Age of rail infrastructure.

    —  Ability of rail to comply with legislation at reasonable and proportionate cost.

    —  Opportunity to accept alternative means of compliance if rail can demonstrate a cost effective alternative.

    Examples of legislation opportune for review include Railways and other Transport Systems (ROTS) Regulations, Railway Safety Critical Work Regulations, together with the scope of Health and Safety at Work Act in relation to rail, Construction Design & Management (CDM) regulations and Electricity at Work.

  4.5  The new European Rail Agency (ERA) will oversee safety and set standards. In the view of Network Rail, there is a danger that the creation of the new agency will compound complexity and it is vital that the future relationship between the ERA and the various UK safety bodies is clarified.

  We are also concerned about the possibility of the duplication of approval requirements and about the potential cost of meeting conventional and high speed interoperability specifications. It will also be important to ensure consistency of European safety targets with those set by UK authorities.

      It is vital that the DfT, SRA and UK rail companies address this issue.

  4.6  Network Rail is committed to playing an active role in the review and development of "fit for purpose" Railway Group and Company Standards.

  This review is required because since privatisation, standards have assumed quasi-legal status in the safety and economic regulatory framework within rail industry, with the result that enforcement and prosecution action is taken in the event of non-compliance.

  It is worth considering that standards often set out the rail industry controls to implement compliance with general legislation. Whenever new or amended legislation is introduced a change to standards usually becomes necessary. Given the potential for future legislative change, this workload may increase along with commensurate cost to the industry.

  4.7  A significant proportion of risk on the railway is caused by trespass, vandalism and other route crime with a crime committed on the railway every 4½ minutes and 64,000 objects placed on the tracks each year. Overall, there are 27 million incidents of trespass on the railway each year, of which 10 million are conducted by children.

  Network Rail is working with industry partners to highlight the dangers of route crime and the Committee may wish to consider whether current sentencing policies adopted by magistrates offer an appropriate deterrent given the seriousness of the problem.

  4.8  Many of the issues identified is this paper are merely symptoms of the broader structure of safety regulation that exists within the rail industry. Network Rail believe that what is needed is a consistent approach to standard setting, regulation and enforcement based on sound risk analysis and an accurate economic evaluation of consequences.

  Network Rail supports the existing work of the RSSB and HSE to review the way in which they operate and the role that they should play. However, these are only two players in the wider regulatory framework. It is vital that these reviews are placed in context with the wider regulatory framework (including each other) with a common industry-wide purpose and coordinated outputs.


  Network Rail's view is that rail managers, signallers, supervisors and engineers have become personally more risk averse due to the increased likelihood of personal prosecution in the aftermath of accidents.

  Lord Cullen recognised a tendency within rail accident investigation to focus on prosecution rather than the identification of root cause and prevention of recurrence. Network Rail hopes that with the creation of the RAIB the opportunity is taken to ensure appropriate balance in future investigations.

  In Network Rail's case the threat of prosecution is real with a number of employees already facing personal prosecution and others undergoing formal police interviews under caution.

  It is not possible to quantify the impact of this on the decision-making of rail engineers and managers, but the issue continues to be one of concern to the company.

January 2004

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