Continued focus on industry improvement required to ensure ongoing safety of Britain’s railways

19 July 2017

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has today published its Annual Report on Railway Health and Safety performance which shows passengers on the mainline railway continued to be assured of a safe journey on Britain’s railways.  However, ORR identifies challenges which must be carefully managed if passengers and workers are to continue to be protected.

During the course of the year there was the tragic Croydon tram derailment in which seven people lost their lives, and the death of one worker on their journey home from work. ORR will work with the industry to ensure any lessons from these incidents are understood and implemented by the appropriate organisations.

On the mainline railway, there were several significant structural and earthwork failures, any of which could have resulted in potentially serious train accidents.  The report notes some sites are very vulnerable to failure in bad weather, especially cuttings and retaining walls. ORR is monitoring Network Rail to ensure lessons are learned from recent incidents and that the deferral of any renewals is managed safely.

ORR’s continuing campaign to persuade companies to incorporate ‘safety by design’ procedures has achieved real success on the Crossrail and High Speed 2 projects and is starting to be taken up among current railway operators.

Operational and technological developments are changing Britain’s railways and ORR is pressing the industry to adapt quickly to meet the health and safety challenges posed by those changes. ORR has published guidance intended to help companies meet health and safety requirements and is pleased to note that its Leading on Health and Safety on Britain’s Railways guidance, which commits firms to collaborate on resolving priority risk areas, is becoming widely adopted.

Progress has also been made on ORR’s occupational health programme, including securing agreement with the Rail Principal Contractors Group on the management of Hand Arm Vibration risks and producing a video stressing the importance of occupational health.

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

"The health and safety of all those who use or work on Britain’s railways is our top priority and we welcome the fact that these remain among the safest in the world. However, recent incidents such as the tragedy at Croydon and the challenges posed by the integrity of assets are very real, so we will be working to ensure the industry is focused on continuous improvement."

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.