RSSB responds to RMT letter about passenger safety
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Rail safety body RSSB has emphasised that the rail industry shares RMT’s concerns and commitment to keeping rail passengers safe.

RSSB chief executive Mark Phillips has responded to a letter from RMT’s General Secretary Mick Cash, who raised concerns about the risk at the platform edge.

Trains are one of the safest forms of land transport, and in his response, Mark stressed that the overall safety record of Britain’s railways is very positive, and overall risk to passengers is low.

Responding to specific concerns about staffing, Mark made it clear that there is no discernible difference in the risk whether a train operates with or without a guard. The presence of a guard does not, in itself, guarantee a reduction in incidents.

Mark agreed that the platform-train interface is still a risk with the potential to cause harm, but needs to be managed in a way which is attuned to the local circumstances, and could include the way staff are deployed, the use of technology, and clear communication with passengers.

RSSB stressed that campaigns to raise awareness about issues among passengers were shown to be worthwhile, and research revealing passengers’ own misconceptions about how train doors operate provided a golden opportunity to encourage those that race closing doors to adopt safer behaviour.

In his response, RSSB chief executive Mark Phillips has accepted the suggestion from RMT General Secretary Mick Cash to meet to discuss the issues in more detail.

Letter to Mick Cash from Mark Phillips:

Mick Cash
RMT
Unity House
39 Chalton Street
London
NW1 1JD

27 November 2017

Dear Mick,

Risk at the platform train interface

Thank you for your letter (PTI risks, 20 November 2017), highlighting your concerns about safety at the platform-train interface (PTI).

I firmly believe that the rail industry shares your overriding concern in ensuring passengers are kept safe when travelling. Our work with our members is designed to help rail companies do this as effectively as possible, and of course, the overall safety record of Britain’s railways is very positive.

This is built on the professionalism of staff as well as a sustained focus on good quality data about the risk on which companies can make the right decisions.

There were 1,515 incidents at the platform edge in the 2015-6 financial year. This figure includes all incidents, regardless of whether a train was present at the time or whether boarding to alighting was involved. The majority of these are very minor slips and trips, and this number is still very low relative to the 1.73 billion passenger journeys made every year.

The amount of overall harm experienced by passengers and the public on trains and on stations (so not just at the platform edge) fell between 2015-6 and 2016-17, from 51.7 to 43.4 FWI (fatalities and weighted injuries), a 16% reduction.

The overall risk associated with dispatch is very low and analysis of six years of data between 2010 and 2015 showed that there is no discernible difference in the risk whether a train operates with or without a guard operating the doors. The presence of a guard does not, in itself, guarantee a reduction in incidents.

However, the platform-train interface is still a risk with the potential to cause harm, and needs to be managed using a range of mitigations which can be attuned to the circumstances, and could include the way staff are deployed, the use of technology, and clear communication with passengers. On the management of PTI risk itself, we have said that it would be prudent for members to check their safety management systems and operational practices reflect the good practice contained in the updated Rail Industry Standard: Passenger Train Dispatch and Platform Safety Measures (RIS-3703-TOM), (Issue 3). We also produce a complementary app to assist members in managing PTI risk.

Meanwhile, a separate piece of research showed that there was an opportunity to challenge passengers’ own misconceptions about how train doors operate and encourage those that race closing doors to adopt safer behaviour. Experience suggests these campaigns are worthwhile, and work for a range of issues, such as Network Rail and Samaritans’ “small talk saves lives” campaign to reduce suicide.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the issues further with you, here at RSSB. It may also be beneficial for me to include my colleagues the director of system safety and health, George Bearfield and director of standards, Tom Lee, with whom I know you’ve had discussions earlier in the year.

I’ll contact you again by telephone to look at suitable dates and times.

Best regards

Mark Phillips
Chief Executive Officer

Further information:

The rail industry works with RSSB on these issues, and has a dedicated Platform-Train Interface Strategy, to make the gap between the platform and the train safer, and to ensure that growing numbers of passengers can continue to enjoy safe and efficient train services in the future.

This includes the cross-industry passenger safety campaign “Lend a helping hand” – and a refreshed poster image for door safety.

The research which revealed passenger perceptions and attitudes towards door closure formed part of a project 'Optimising door closure arrangements to improve boarding and alighting' (reference T1102), which was completed in May 2017.

The fieldwork consisted of 69 passenger interviews at mainline railway stations across the country, and was conducted by two human factors specialists between October and December 2016. This work was undertaken for RSSB by DNV GL.

A separate piece of research that we published in July 2017 looked at six years of data and found that safety levels are as good for passengers who board and alight from trains without a guard being present as they are for those using other services. This looked at the risk to passengers as they enter and leave train carriages and as the train departs from a platform when no guard is present and the driver controls the opening and closing of doors (known as driver controlled operation (DCO), and sometimes also referred to as driver only operation or (DOO)). The report concludes that levels of risk across all forms of dispatch are low.

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