Who Leads on Rail Safety?

The railway is made up of many companies and organisations delivering different parts of the railway. But, all those parts make up one system. So, they need to collaborate 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. When combined, they aim to deliver a safe railway. Here we explain who does what.

Where to start

It’s easiest if we start by thinking about the people who actually benefit from the railways: the passengers and freight shippers that rely 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. The transport operators and the rolling stock owners are supported by a huge supply chain.

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

Overseeing this is a range of other bodies and organisations. Companies will draw on these to help fulfil the business of operating the railway safely. In combination they 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 that embraces 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 the Rail Safety and Standards Board)

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

  • assesses whole system risk
  • provides tools, guidance, standards, analysis, and 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, and reinforces the regulatory framework.

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


Rail safety diagram
Rail Safety Leadership document
Haven’t found what you’re looking for?
Get in touch with our expert for more information
Ann Mills
Tel: 020 3142 5613
Cookies help us improve your website experience.
By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies.