Q and A on Railway Safety
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Q and A on Railway Safety
type Press release
How is Railway Safety different from the old Safety and Standards Division of Railtrack?
Broadly speaking, Railway Safety will retain most of Safety and Standards’ responsibilities, so existing expertise will be preserved. We will, however, take on a bigger role in standard setting, and through promoting safety within the rail industry and to the travelling public. We will also have a significant budget to carry out research into safety-related issues. We will be outward looking, open and accountable.
How does Railway Safety fit in with the other bodies responsible for safety regulation?
Our job is to continue to develop a long-term safety strategy for the rail industry through the Railway Group Safety Plan which sets challenging 10-year targets for key safety areas. We will continue to develop and produce Railway Group Standards – the mandatory goal setting standards directed towards securing safe interworking, and extend these into new areas such as management systems. We will also audit compliance. It is the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive to enforce statutory requirements and thereby function as safety regulator, and of the Rail Regulator to set economic regulation.
Won’t you just be a talking shop?
No – by developing and providing mandatory Group Railway Standards we provide the very framework that underpins safe operation of the network. Another crucial new development is our research and development budget of some £70 million over the next five years that will help us build on significant work already carried out into areas such as human factors, crashworthiness, train protection etc. We will also use our new and wider role of engaging with the public to help shape the work we do within the industry.
Aren’t you too close to Railtrack given that you are a subsidiary of its parent company and that it will continue to fund you?
No – the Board of Railway Safety will contain non-executive directors from different parts of the industry as well as from outside the industry and appointed in accordance with the Network Licence Condition. The Regulator has established a ring-fenced budget for Railway Safety derived from track access charges and paid to us through Railtrack. In the next few months the Regulator will decide our budget for the next financial year. Railway Safety will be a subsidiary of the parent group Railtrack Group PLC, not Railtrack PLC which is the operator of the national network.
We are committed to being open and accountable in our dealings. We will work hard to convince the industry and the public of our even handedness.
Isn’t it likely that you will only have a short shelf life and that it will be all change again when Lord Cullen reports?
Part Two of Lord Cullen’s inquiry into the Ladbroke Grove accident is considering safety management on the railways. A wide range of options has already been presented to the inquiry. If he recommends any structural change that the government accepts then they may need legislation to implement them, and that may take time. Railway Safety has an important job to do that needs doing as from today. We will do the very best we can by helping the industry drive up safety standards – that is more important than which box we end up in.
What positive contribution to safety do you hope to make?
We believe we can make a practical contribution with the industry by helping to set the overall safety strategy and by putting in place the Railway Group Standards that will help us implement that strategy. We also believe that by working with the public we can act as a two-way channel of communication between the industry and the public.
How can you possibly hope to convince the public that the railways are safe and that the industry can be trusted?
Re-building trust will be a long-term task, and we will only be part of the solution, not the whole answer. We will work hard to engage the public in discussions about rail safety. We have an important educational role to perform, helping to explain risk, and acting as a link between the industry and the public. We believe that it is by being open that we will start to convince people that the industry is changing. We will explain areas where progress is being made and highlight those where still greater effort is needed to meet the legitimate expectations of the public.
Surely your job is not to explain risk but to iron it out so passengers are safe?
Rail remains the safest form of land transport and in terms of safety performance the UK rail railways are broadly similar to that of the EU. Naturally our objective is to improve on this.
Our job is to help the industry reduce risk as far as reasonably practicable, by taking a zero tolerance approach to unsafe acts, by setting standards and demanding targets for improved safety performance, through the spreading of best practice, and increased safety awareness by all railway staff, passengers and neighbours.
Who will the non-executive directors be and will there be a passenger representative?
The Rail Regulator is currently consulting on potential non-executive directors. Passenger representation is likely to be through representation on the Safety Advisory Board – a rail industry stakeholder forum which enables input to the industry’s safety processes and strategy.
Contact Alison Flynn on 020 7904 7524 for further information.
Concerns about operational safety on the Railway should be reported to Railtrack's 24-hour helpline on 0845 711 4141.
Railhub Archive ::: 2001-01-01 RSA-002