All aboard the Santa Special

3 December 2019

By Steve Turner, HM Principal Inspector of Railways.

Steve TurnerHM Principal Inspector of Railways Steve Turner offers a light-hearted take on the serious business of ensuring that heritage railways are safe at Christmas and all year round, before climbing into his cab and driving his own Santa Special as he has done every year since 1985.

Heritage railways are about to enjoy their busiest time of the year with hundreds of thousands of excited children - and some parents - looking forward to meeting Father Christmas on one of the 200+ preserved railways up and down Great Britain.

And while the parents tuck in to the sherry and mince pies they can relax in the knowledge that the steam or diesel Santa Special carrying their offspring is operating under the most rigorous safety standards.

In 2019 ORR strengthened our team of heritage Inspectors and, working closely with the skilled and enthusiastic staff and volunteers, we aim to ensure that passengers enjoy a 1950s experience with 21st century standards of safety and service.

Inspections, advice and guidance

We do this by requiring railways to comply with safety legislation, principally the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by conducting inspections. We also offer advice and guidance and, where necessary in serious matters, we take formal enforcement action to ensure that health and safety risks are eliminated or significantly reduced.

We also investigate accidents and complaints and undertake work to ensure, for example, that level crossings are maintained and operated properly.

At this time of year there are particular risks caused by dark nights, ice, rain and snow which can lead to slips and trips – so watch your step on car parks and on platforms.

Every train used on the railway must pass a Fitness to Run examination and, I will be visiting Santa’s Grotto at the North Pole to carry out an inspection of his proposed 2019 operations. I will be checking that the sleigh has been risk assessed and is fit to travel, with suitable Satnav, properly-trained reindeer and loaded with enough presents for all the good little boys and girls.

Santa Special heritage train