Who leads on rail safety?

The railway is made up of lots of different companies and organisations delivering different bits of the railway, but all are part of a system, and so need to work with each other to make it work and to ensure it’s safe. This means there is no single organisation which leads. Instead, different aspects of leadership are provided or supported from different places, which, when combined, aim to secure a safe railway.Here we explain who does what.

It’s easiest if we start by thinking about the people who actually benefit from the railways: the passengers and freight shippers relying on trains to get from A to B. They will use passenger and freight train operating companies who operate the trains themselves.

These TOCs and FOCs rely on other companies to provide them with the track and stations to run the trains on, and the trains themselves. Supporting the transport operators and the rolling stock owners is a huge supply chain.

Each company will have their own specific safety responsibilities which they will need to manage. Companies with particular, defined safety duties, as written in regulations or standards are referred to as ‘duty holders’.

Overseeing this are a range of other bodies and organisations which companies will draw on to fulfil the business of operating the railway safely, and combined provide the leadership role on rail safety: Rail Delivery Group (RDG), Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), Office of Rail and Road (ORR) and RSSB.

Who does what

Duty holders

These are the companies which deliver the railway to its customers and hold specific, particular duties on safety. To lead on safety, they have to deliver a safe railway. They also:

  • Monitor system performance
  • Lead safe delivery of change
  • Manage their safety risks
  • Lead co-operation with other duty holders and industry partners

Rail Delivery Group (RDG)

RDG is an industry leadership body embracing the major passenger and freight train operator groups and Network Rail. RDG aligns and coordinates its members to lead on safety effectively. It:

  • Facilitates coordinated industry delivery
  • Aligns industry safety strategies

RSSB (originally known as Rail Safety and Standards Board)

RSSB is a membership-based rail industry body designed to help the railway become safer and more sustainable for passengers, the workforce and the wider public, while reducing risk and cost. It enables and informs safety leadership. It also:

  • Assesses whole system risk
  • Provides tools guidance, standards, analysis, research
  • Informs on progress against strategy
  • Facilitates safety collaboration
  • Advises on good safety management

Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB)

RAIB ensures independent investigation of railway accidents for the purposes of learning and prevention. It makes:

  • Independent accident investigations
  • Recommendations

Office of Rail and Road (ORR)

The ORR is the health and safety regulator and enforcing authority for the railway. Its role is to make sure that the health and safety of everyone associated with the rail industry is protected. ORR’s contribution to safety leadership is to supervise and enforce. It:

  • Certifies and authorises safety certificates
  • Supervises industry safety management systems
  • Advises on legislative requirements
  • Develops, monitors, reinforces regulatory framework


Rail safety diagram


For a fuller explanation of who does what on safety leadership, have a read of our short 2-page document 'Rail safety leadership'.


Rail safety diagram
Rail Safety Leadership document
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