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Rail public inquiries: Work on recommendations heads for completion

HSE InfoLine : 24 November, 2005  (New Product)
The Health and Safety Commission today published its tenth progress report on recommendations made following Public Inquiries into the Southall and Ladbroke Grove rail incidents and Joint Inquiry into Train Protection Systems.
Bill Callaghan, HSC chair, said: 'The rail industry has risen to the challenge of implementing the recommendations that are now part of the framework for the continued improvement in railway safety. Of the total of 295 recommendations arising from the four Public Inquiry reports into rail safety, only four now remain to be completed.'

The report, available on the Health and Safety Executive's website at charts progress on the implementation of recommendations since HSC published its last report in September 2004. This will be the last progress report published by HSC before the transfer of rail safety regulatory responsibilities to the Office of Rail Regulation.

Bill Callaghan added: 'The Office of Rail Regulation must ensure that the process of improving safety culture on the railways continues, and both the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and the Rail Safety and Standards Board, both created following recommendations by the rail Public Inquiries, will have key roles to play. In the meantime, HSC remains committed to maintaining health and safety on the railways.'

As before, the recommendations have been grouped under eight themes: safety culture; infrastructure; investigations; organisations and standards; suppliers and contractors; training; train protection, and vehicle integrity, though those relating to infrastructure and safety culture were completed and reported on in previous updates.

Since the last progress report, the remaining 15 recommendations relating to investigations have been completed. The setting up of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, a major part of this theme, took longer than Lord Cullen envisaged because of the need to find parliamentary time for the development of the necessary legislation.

The remaining two recommendations relating to organisations and standards have been completed. They are being taken forward as part of the proposed Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations, which will implement the Railway Safety Directive.

Work to implement the last recommendation on the accreditation of safety critical suppliers continues; industry have presented draft proposals to HSE on an operational framework, the Railway Industry Supplier Approval Scheme, which forms a key element of supply chain management. The scheme is scheduled to be operational by January 2006.

The three remaining recommendations relating to training have been completed. Network Rail, as major employer of signallers on the network, intends to further develop and improve its competency management system for signallers and though HSC had decided it would not recommend a legislative approach to the licensing of train drivers and signallers, in March 2004 the EC published a draft Directive for the certification of train crews, which if adopted would be required to be implemented into UK law.

Of the remaining five recommendations under the train protection theme, a further two have been completed since the last progress report. Work is continuing on the remaining three recommendations. The National European Rail Traffic Management Programme 3 rd year progress report, published on 23 June 2005, reported good progress being made across industry in a number of areas in the development of ERTMS.

The last recommendation relating to vehicle integrity has been completed. Train operators have introduced improved arrangements for emergency evacuation, safety information and signage, training of staff, and provision of equipment. Additional standardised information for passengers will also help. A substantial programme of research and investigation is continuing. This is progressing more slowly than the Inquiries recommended, because the industry is taking a broader look at the issue than the strict terms of the recommendations demand, which appears a sensible approach for the longer term. The future development of European Technical Standards for Interoperability will influence and eventually determine standards in many of these areas.

Professor Uff and Lord Cullen, who respectively chaired the Public Inquiries into Southall and Ladbroke Grove and jointly the Inquiry into train protection systems, asked HSC to monitor implementation of the Inquiries recommendations. HSC has reported annually on progress since 2002. By 2004, 27 of the initial 295 recommendations remained to be implemented, and today's report shows the progress on those.
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