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Tramway and Heritage Rail Safety Verification

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tom Harris): In 2006, the Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (generally known within the rail industry as “ROGS”) (S.I. 2006/599) were introduced as the new safety regulatory framework applicable to all rail-based transport systems. ROGS include new arrangements for ensuring the safety of new or significantly altered rolling stock and infrastructure via a system of independent safety verification that is managed by rail operators.

When ROGS were introduced, the application of the new safety verification arrangements to tramways and heritage rail was postponed until 1 October 2008, to allow further time for the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) to work with the tramway and heritage rail sectors to resolve their remaining concerns surrounding the safety verification process.

Chris Bolt, the chairman of ORR, wrote to me on 15 April 2008 to update me with progress on the work undertaken by ORR to address the concerns of the tramway and heritage railway sectors and recommending that safety verification should be applied to those sectors from October 2008, as originally provided for in ROGS. A copy of the letter is available in the Libraries of the House. Following this, I received a number of representations from both sectors advising that they still have outstanding concerns and requesting that the application of safety verification be postponed for a further period.

ORR acknowledges that the tramway and heritage rail sectors still have some remaining concerns. However, ORR is confident that application of safety verification to these sectors will secure safety in a proportionate and pragmatic way, and have given a commitment to provide both sectors with enhanced support when safety verification comes into effect for them. Safety verification has already been successfully applied to the mainline railway network and the London underground and Docklands light railway systems since October 2006.

Having considered the advice and recommendation from ORR and the written and verbal representations from the tramway and heritage rail sectors, I am satisfied that with the enhanced support to be provided by ORR, the application of safety verification to these sectors will ensure adequate levels of safety are achieved in a pragmatic and proportionate way and am therefore content for ROGS safety verification to automatically come into force for the tramway and heritage rail sectors from 1 October 2008.

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