Assurance bodies praised for 22-year contribution to rail safety
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Organisations ensuring the safety of new and altered trains have had their achievements celebrated at a special event in Derby last week.

Since rail privatisation, the companies, known as 'Vehicle Acceptance Bodies' (VABs) and accredited by RSSB, have been responsible for making sure the introduction of new trains, and latterly engineering changes to trains, are managed safely.

Together VABs have issued about 110,000 certificates, by over 200 signatories and countless support engineers and personnel.  This is a significant contribution to rail safety in the two decades following privatisation, an era which has seen unprecedented growth in passenger and freight numbers, alongside the evolution of an impressive safety record. 

At a special conference in Derby on 31 March, the VABs were formally thanked by RSSB chief executive Chris Fenton in advance of changes to standards coming into effect on 4 June, which will mark the end of VABs, and usher in a new regime for companies wanting to manage engineering change to trains. 

The changes are just the latest step in a history of rail regulation stretching back over 125 years.  The Armagh rail disaster in 1889 saw 80 people killed and 260 injured, and led to rapid changes to the law to allow the state to compel rail companies to conform to safety requirements.  Many see this as the birth of modern rail safety regulation which has evolved to the present day, where the latest change in standards is just the latest step.

RSSB has stayed in close contact with its members to ensure companies have been able to use the new standards, and where necessary, check their approach and management systems reflect the latest requirements for managing engineering change.

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