ORR’s annual assessment of railway health and safety: Safest in Europe, but consistency of implementation needs to improve

19 July 2016

Britain’s railways are the safest they have ever been, but there is still room for improvement.

This is ORR’s key message, as it launched its annual report on railway health and safety pdf icon PDF, 1,335 Kb today (Tuesday, 19 July).

The past year saw further improvements in the leadership of safety across the railway industry and for the first time ever there were no fatalities of any railway worker. However, ORR’s inspectors found that safety rules and procedures were not always implemented consistently.

ORR’s Annual Health and Safety Report of Performance on Britain’s Railways: 2015-16 highlights:

  • Good collaboration across the industry, leading to the publication of a unified mainline railway health and safety strategy. This has identified 12 priority areas requiring attention such as such as worker health and wellbeing, fatigue management and station operations.
  • Safety at level crossings continues to improve, however standards are not yet applied consistently enough. There were still three incidents in which pedestrians were killed. ORR is scrutinising Network Rail’s programme of work to improve safety management at level crossings.
  • While for the first year ever there were no fatalities of any railway worker there was still loss of life and injury in stations. ORR is pressing the industry to increase its focus on safety for people using stations in response to the challenge of continued passenger growth across the rail network.
  • ORR’s inspectors have dealt with a number of significant safety issues, which are detailed further in the report.

ORR's Director of Railway Safety and HM Chief Inspector, Ian Prosser, said:

A decade of sustained investment and a shared commitment from industry leaders, managers, workers, unions and governments has dramatically improved health and safety on Britain’s railways. It is a significant achievement to be rated as the safest railway in Europe, but it’s vital no one becomes complacent.
Our evidence highlights key challenges facing the rail industry. In particular, the need to ensure that safety arrangements set by railway leadership are implemented consistently, as well as managing the safety risks from rising passenger numbers.
We need to see further evidence of industry improvement here.  The safety of all those who use or work on Britain’s railways is our top priority. We will continue to play our part in holding Network Rail, London Underground, and the train operators to account for delivering an ever safer railway.

Notes to editors

  1. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is the UK’s rail regulator and highways monitor for England. ORR protects the interests of rail and road users; improving the safety, value and performance of railways and roads, today and in the future. Follow us @railandroad.
  2. ORR’s Annual Health and Safety Report of Performance on Britain’s Railways: 2015-16 can be found on our website at: http://orr.gov.uk/what-and-how-we-regulate/health-and-safety/monitoring-and-reporting/annual-health-and-safety-annual-report-2016