Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence

Supplementary memorandum by the Health and Safety Executive (FOR 122A)


  The Committee asked for additional information. This is set out below:


  The net resource outturn of the Health and Safety Executive for the operating year 2002-03 was £203,628,000. Within that total, expenditure on Rail activities amounted to £11.5 million, of which £6.2 million was recovered from the industry through charging for aspects of HMRI's work. In turn the industry recovers a substantial amount of its expenditure from taxpayers through SRA. Funding for HSE's support to the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority (£300,000 of the above) is provided to HM Treasury by Eurotunnel. Further details can be found in the HSC Annual Report and HSC/E accounts for 2002-03 (Schedule 2, on page 163 of the report):


  Mr Armitt's response to Q 1687, in which he said that HSE additionally wanted all signals on the network protected by TPWS and that this increased the capital cost by £300 million, is incorrect. We will be writing to Mr Armitt to address this misunderstanding. The Regulatory Impact Assessment for the Railway Safety Regulations 1999 covered the types of TPWS fitment consulted on by HSC in 1998 and subsequently required by the Regulations, although the full scope of the Railtrack fitment programme was not required to be agreed until the beginning of 2000. HSE did not require additional TPWS installation work to be carried out beyond those types included in the RIA. Railtrack indicated to HSC in 1998 that it was content with the Regulations as drafted, though there remained some areas of technical contention where it disagreed with HSE. Although the requirements in the Regulations are absolute, the exemption provision was made wide-ranging to enable low safety benefit and high costs to be taken into account. In 2001 CulIen recommended that the industry should use this provision and apply for exemption where justified. This was taken up by Network Rail and during 2003 HSE has granted two key exemptions on TPWS fitment as an overspeeding risk mitigation measure, covering about 12% of the original programme. These resulted in savings of around £64 million. HSE took full account of cost and risk and consulted widely before granting these exemptions. Further information is listed at: k/railways/rollst/index.htm

  There was an escalation in the costs of fitting TPWS beyond the original estimates but this was not attributable to any additional requirements by HSE. On the contrary HSE has been sympathetic to cases for exemption where a robust evidence-based case has been made.


  Currently, level crossings (LCs) are the second highest risk on the mainline railway. Network Rail calculates that they account for 23% of train accident risk. LC incidents may result in the death of individuals involved, and can also lead to an incident involving many rail and road-related fatalities (eg Hixon, 1968 and Lockington, 1986).

  HSE approves the protective arrangements for each modernised public crossing through a statutory Level Crossing Order, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport. This is based on a specification from Network Rail in which Network Rail applies the industry's own Railway Group and Network Rail Line Standards. The police and highway authorities have responsibilities related to road user safety. Enforcement against road traffic offences at level crossings is by British Transport Police and others. Highway authorities fund alternatives to level crossings, such as bridges.

  Network Rail has developed a strategy for improving level crossing safety, on which HSE was consulted and which HSE supports. The overriding principle of this strategy is to ensure that new permanent crossings are opened in only exceptional circumstances, and existing crossings are closed where feasible.

  HSE also supports the Network Rail's risk-based programme of upgrades. Automatic Open Level Crossings have the highest rate of accidents. Conversion of one of these to a barriered crossing meeting the industry's own standards costs £750,000 to £1.25 million. Automatic Half Barrier Crossings can also generate an increased risk when traffic patterns change. Upgrading of these costs £1-£1.5 million. HSE is encouraging Network Rail to examine cheaper methods of level crossing protection—Network Rail currently has three trials nearing completion—and also supports the provision of enforcement cameras at high risk crossings.

  Increases in road crossing usage caused by local developments often require Network Rail to seek an Order from HSE to upgrade a crossing. HSE has only once exercised its powers in the Level Crossings Act 1983 to require a change in level crossing protection. This was to permit a delay in an upgrading by Network Rail because of difficulties on the part of the local Highway Authority.

  Like Network Rail, HSE recognises that crossing user misuse is the primary cause of most level crossing (LC) incidents. Solutions to this are not straightforward, in part because of behavioural aspects. HSE was instrumental in the setting up last year of the National Level Crossing Safety Group, which brings together everyone with an interest and is very actively supported by Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), Network Rail and others. This group considers a whole range of relevant issues, including how best to tackle misuse, and will be producing a report with recommendations.


  This has not been published. An executive summary has been provided to all those who took part in the survey and to members of the HSC's Rail Industry Advisory Committee.


  This report was never finalised. It was discussed at a senior management meeting where it was agreed to proceed with some of the recommendations, such as placing more emphasis on project and programme working.

  I hope this provides the information the Committee needs. If you would like any further details please contact me.

Allan Sefton

Director of Rail Safety

16 January 2004

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