This part of the RSSB website deals with the standards applicable to the mainline railway in Great Britain (GB). Further pages on this site describe in greater detail many of the subjects outlined on this page.
RSSB is producing a series of leaflets about railway standards which complement the information on this part of the website. The leaflets are available from firstname.lastname@example.org or they can be downloaded from this page.
Why does industry need standards?
The aim of standards is to provide for the most cost-effective, efficient and compatible means of rail system delivery, whilst providing for a safe railway.
To meet this aim, standards define and record what has to be done or how something needs to be done. This avoids having to ‘re-invent the wheel’ each time the same situation occurs.
In principle, there are three situations in which the industry uses standards:
- When an appropriate authority has determined that a standard must be complied with under specified circumstances.
- When the industry needs a recognised method of meeting a requirement that must be complied with – that is, something whose use gives a ‘presumption of conformity’ with that requirement.
- When the industry needs access to useful information or recognised good practice.
How are standards given force?
The requirement to comply with standards under specified circumstances is given force by different means, depending on the ‘appropriate authority’ that requires compliance. These means are:
- The law – European (such as Commission decisions and Commission regulations) and domestic (such as regulations – a type of Statutory Instrument).
- Licence conditions – imposed through the licence granted by the Office of Rail Regulation.
- Safety Management Systems and contracts – imposed at company level.
What scope do standards have?
The scope of application of a standard will be at one of four levels:
Producing standards at different levels means that detailed requirements do not need to be imposed at high levels. This gives the industry the ability to make decisions at the right level. Generally speaking, constraints become increasingly tight the lower the level of standard.
For example, at national level, the standard will state what needs to be achieved to deliver compatibility between rail vehicles, the infrastructure and operating procedures. A company will create its own standards that are compatible with the national standards to define any further rules or constraints that it wishes to apply to its activities.
Drawing this together
'The Scope and Force of Standards' diagram illustrates the relationship between standards and how they are given force.
What kinds of standard are there?
The principal types of standard used by the industry include the following, but note that other types of standards are also used:
- Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs) – European standards, whose use under specified circumstances is required by law.
- Railway Group Standards (RGSs) – standards for the GB mainline railway, whose use under specified circumstances is required by licence conditions.
- Euronorms (ENs) – European standards, whose use is not usually mandatory, although it may be required by being referenced in a TSI or a RGS. In the UK, ENs are published by BSI and are prefixed by ‘BS EN’.
- Rail Industry Standards (RISs) – these are produced by RSSB at the request of industry where there are expected to be benefits from different companies using a common standard. They can be adopted as company standards.
- Rail Industry Guidance Notes (GNs) – produced to provide useful information or recognised good practice. Many GNs support the use of a particular RGS.
- Association of Train Operating Companies’ Approved Codes of Practice, Guidance Notes and Good Practice Guides – produced as recognised good practice for use by railway undertakings, these complement RGSs and cover both engineering and operations subjects.
- Company standards – produced by each company for its own needs.
What if there’s a better way of doing something?
It may be that a standard (or parts of it) is no longer appropriate for industry as a whole. For example, there may be a better way of doing something or changes in technology may have made the standard obsolete. There are therefore systems in place for changing standards.
A deviation from a mandatory standard (an RGS) can be obtained if it is not appropiate to change the RGS. For example, a deviation could be granted if it is necessary to do something different from the RGS in specific circumstances.
Further information is available on Deviations from Railway Group Standards
and Changing Railway Group Standards.