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What is the Rule Book?

​The Rule Book (GE/RT8000) and other National Operations Publications are the only Railway Group Standards (RGS) documents that contain direct instructions for, and used directly by, railway staff. In this respect they differ from all other RGS documents. 

The Rule Book is held in printed copy by over 100,000 people, and as such is probably the best known and most widely distributed Railway Group Standard in the entire RSSB catalogue. Even greater numbers of people are known to use it as a reference and information document both from the United Kingdom and abroad using the online version. It also generates by far the greatest number of queries to the RSSB Enquiries desk.

In addition to maintaining the above documents, the Operations team provides advice and support on a wide range of subjects concerning the practicalities, logistics and ‘people’ aspects of railway operations; to this end they work very closely with our colleagues in the human factors team. The Operations team has also developed strong links with engineering disciplines both within RSSB, within the wider GB rail industry and in Europe as​ part of its commitment to various EU-based rail organisations.

National Operations Publications

The National Operations Publications comprise:

Each of these publications is a Railway Group Standard (RGS).

The Rule Book

The Rule Book is a vital safety document. A mandatory standard, it comprises a set of modules and handbooks which contain direct instructions for railway staff.  It sets out the operational rules for application on the GB mainline railway, which are necessary to enable the safe and timely delivery of people and goods to their destination and to provide the framework to enable safe engineering operations.

You can see which modules and handbooks are relevant to specific roles on the railway in the
Rule Book module matrix
.  This matrix lists the Rule Book modules, handbooks and information handbooks that should be issued to a person who is competent to carry out the duties of the job title or role shown in the list.

Modules, handbooks and information handbooks

A Rule Book module contains a set of instructions for front line operating personnel such as drivers, signallers and shunters which would apply across the main line network and manage safety across the interface between train operators and the infrastructure manager.

A Rule Book handbook contains a set of instructions that are carried out by other personnel holding a particular competency in relation to staff protection, engineering activity or operation of equipment.

An information h​andbook does not contain rules to directly manage safety of operations, but instead contains background information on the topic covered, including instructions on the general operation of any equipment dealt with.​  Associated with the Rule Book are a number of Information Handbooks on:

Rule Book forms

Examples of the various operational forms which are used in relation to the Rule Book are listed in the list of current Rule Book Modules.  

The operational concept for the GB main line railway​

The scope of the Rule Book is aligned with the Fundamental Operating Principles as laid out in
RSSB-GBMR-OC Operational Concept for the GB Mainline Railway External link.  The purpose of this document is to provide a link between nine fundamental operating principles and the rules and instructions in the Rule Book and Working Manual for Rail Staff. It indicates whether rules and instructions are defined for traffic operation and management on the main line railway, and the warning and protection arrangements for people required to work on or near the line. It therefore provides a means of deciding whether a proposed method of operation would require a change to those rules and instructions, or whether the change is to internal company instructions or competence management systems. 

Changes to the Rule Book

The Rule Book is managed by industry; RSSB facilitates its maintenance, design, and publication.  Changes to the Rule Book are set out in the Periodical Operating Notice (PON), published every 3 months by Network Rail, which is available to train operators.  

Any proposed changes to the Rule Book, which are going to industry consultation are listed are listed under Forthcoming consultations.  The Consultation and Stakeholder Register lists documents currently open for consultation.

Copies of the Rule Book

If you need hard copies of a RGS or the catalogue, you can order them directly from the printers - WillsonsExternal link​.

Copies of the Rule Book modules, Handbooks and Information Handbooks can be downloaded in PDF from the Railway Group Standards section of this site.​​​

Did you know?

​You can now download digital Rule Book manuals designed for smartphones and tablets, which compile relevant parts of the Rule Book into one handy digital document?  For further information, see the Rule Book hot topics page.


This document is hosted in SPARK, a free to access rail information portal.