New research published by rail industry body RSSB has given further confirmation that there is
no difference in the risk whether a train is guard-operated or run using driver controlled
A forensic investigation into six years of recent safety data (2010-2015) looked at all the
relevant recorded incidents at the platform edge on the national rail network. It concluded
that the risk to passengers associated with “train dispatch” – the processes used by staff to
ensure trains leave stations safely – to be extremely low.
According to RSSB, the high levels of safety evident implies individual rail companies are adept
at managing the specific risks local to their operations and will continue to enjoy a good safety
record so long as attention is focussed on managing their risks appropriately – regardless of
what operation techniques they use.
With over 1.73 billion passenger journeys made, using over 2,500 stations in the 2016-17
financial year, the overall harm to passengers has actually fallen, with fewer major injuries due
to slips, trips and falls being recorded.
And while 2016-7 saw 4 fatalities to passengers in accidents at the platform edge, this is
roughly comparable to the risk of being killed from a lightning strike (about 2 or 3 a year in the
UK), and compares to 500 deaths a year in the UK due to food poisoning, and about 1,800
deaths on the roads.
Past investigations also show that deaths at the platform edge are often linked with
intoxication and individual passenger behaviour, and can occur in a range of circumstances,
most often when no train is present at the time.
The latest figures also continue to confirm train travel as one of the safest forms of transport,
the car being 21 times as risky, the bicycle nearly 400 times and motorcycle nearly 1,400 times.
RSSB’s Director of System Safety and health, George Bearfield said,
Our research shows that
the risks to passengers are extremely low, to the point that it is impossible to distinguish any
meaningful difference between different dispatch techniques and so illustrate that both
operation with a guard and driver controlled operation (or driver only operation) are equally
Risk associated with train dispatch - report