New approach to train failures improves safety and could reduce delays
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Rail passengers could experience fewer delays and better safety thanks to a new approach to managing driver-signaller communication equipment failures, developed by RSSB.

Since 2014, Britain’s railways have almost exclusively used a modern digital communication system known as GSM-R, and which is much more reliable and efficient than the old-fashioned analogue systems it replaced.

However, even the most reliable of systems can still fail, and analysis by RSSB has shown that, in some situations where equipment fails, it can actually be safer to allow trains to continue running because the ‘knock-on’ risk caused by delays and station crowding is far greater if trains were stopped.

The analysis is based on a new risk model which has been developed as part of a cross-industry project. This saw RSSB’s own subject matter experts join forces with the trade unions, ASLEF and RMT, as well as Network Rail, the train operating companies and the Office of Rail and Road to allow everyone the opportunity to contribute to the research and test the resilience of the model.

Crucially, only safety risk was taken into account in the analysis, meaning the results are based purely on a comparison of the risk to people’s safety and not on the impact of disruption.

RSSB’s Professional Head of Rail Operations, Gary Portsmouth said; This is a great example of the industry working together to come to an agreed approach on a shared problem. The GB rail industry now has access to a consistent method of managing the risks concerned through the adoption of new rail industry standard and a complementary set of operational rules and procedures.

Managing operation risk when GSM-R equipment fails

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