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Workers are key to ensuring safe railways

19 July 2018

THE OFFICE of Rail and Road (ORR) has published its Annual Report on Health and Safety Performance which reveals that Britain’s railways remain safe, but staff must be supported.

The report reveals that no passengers died as a result of using trains in the past year. However, one child tragically died following an accident in a freight depot, and there were two worker fatalities, one of which was through natural causes.

The industry is making good progress with making the changes recommended by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch following their investigation into the Croydon tram derailment in 2016. The ORR is assisting this important work through facilitating the formation of a Safety Standards Board.

There was also significant progress made in embedding health and safety considerations in the design stage of projects, particularly in the upgrades to trains and stations of Merseyrail and of managing change in major programmes undertaken by Transport for London and London Underground.

However, looking forward, the report urges the industry to focus its attention on three key challenges:

  • Supporting our people – The fact that our railways are currently safe is heavily due to the diligence and professionalism of the staff. But they are coming under increasing pressure and we must support them particularly in regards to mental health and fatigue
  • System pressure – New equipment is being introduced and train frequencies have increased but these are often running on a Victorian network; this creates challenges that must be risk-controlled
  • Technology – Technological developments can improve safety, performance and value-for-money. But it is crucial that attention is paid to how people interact with the new technology.

HM chief inspector of railways, Ian Prosser, said,  "It is a tribute to the hard work, expertise and professionalism of everyone connected to the railways that our network remains one of the safest in the world.

"However, the tragedy at Croydon remains fresh in all of our memories and that, alongside the pace of change on the railway, places staff and infrastructure under increasing pressure.

"The ORR will work with the industry to protect the health and well-being of staff, meet the many challenges that the industry faces and ensure that passengers continue to travel in safety."