The diagram below reflects the different types of standards and rules which exist today.

Scope and force of standards May 2021

Standards self-assessment

The standards self-assessment page provides a toolkit of videos, bite-sized guidance on standards and a knowledge self-assessment test to help users gain a better understanding of how to use standards and how they link together.

National Technical Rules

Compliance with National Technical Rules (NTRs) is required by the Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2011 (as amended).

NTRs enable those designing railway subsystems to meet legal requirements which are not covered in the National Technical Specification Notices (NTSNs) because: 

  • There is an agreed alternative; 
  • Requirements are missing; or
  • Additional requirements are needed so that the new or modified subsystem can work with existing railway subsystems

On Britain's railways, we publish NTRs in Railway Group Standards.

National Safety Rules

National Safety rules (NSRs) are any legislation and other requirements, applicable in Great Britain, which contain requirements relating to railway safety and are imposed on more than one railway undertaking. The Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (as amended) require safety management systems of transport operators to have procedures which comply with NSRs.  Relevant railway-specific regulations already cover all safety-related aspects for the GB mainline railway, and NTSNs contain the common technical and operational requirements applicable on the mainline railway.  Therefore, there are no NSRs relevant to the GB mainline railway in Railway Group Standards.

National Operational Publications

National Operations Publications (NOPs) contain direct instructions for railway staff. The most familiar NOP for Britain's railways is the Rule Book. Others include The Working Manual for Rail Staff: Freight Train Operations (known by some as the 'white pages') and the Working Manual for Rail Staff: Handling and Carriage of Dangerous Goods (known as the 'pink pages').

Rail Industry Standards

Rail Industry Standards (RIS) define functional or technical requirements that can be used as off-the-shelf, company-level standards, procedures and best practice to meet legal aims. They often supplement compulsory requirements in NTSNs and NTRs. A RIS describes arrangements agreed across the industry. They offer the flexibility to adapt them, or even do something differently, without needing to apply for a deviation from RSSB. However, licence conditions require holders to comply with RISs unless they have an equally effective alternative.

Route compatibility

Our work to revise the route compatibility assessment standard has made the process of introducing change to the railway easier to navigate, enabling impacted parties to work more efficiently and effectively.   

European and international standards

European standards (ENs) are Europe-wide standards that help to develop the single European market for goods and services in all sectors. ENs exist to facilitate trade between countries, create new markets, and cut compliance costs. Increasingly, opportunities for extending standards beyond Europe to other parts of the world are being explored. In the UK, ENs are published by the British Standards Institute (BSI) as BS ENs, and we work closely to support the secretariat.

Company and project standards

Standards may be agreed at company or project level. For example, they can be used to manage risk in areas not covered by industry standards or through specific laws. They can also provide local detail to legal and standards compliance.