Deviating from Standards

Sometimes, you may not be able to comply with a requirement in a standard and will need to seek permission to use an alternative provision.  To do this, you should apply for a deviation which sets out the alternative provision you wish to put in place, on either a temporary or permanent basis. We will process your application so that the Lead Standards Committee can make the final decision on the outcome. 

How to use an alternative to a requirement in a standard

How to get industry's approval or input to use an alternative?

If you cannot comply with a requirement in a Railway Group Standard (RGS) or a Rail Industry Standard (RIS), you may need industry's approval/permission to use an alternative (for an RGS) or may wish to seek observations on your alternative (for a RIS) from a standards committee.  In either case, please complete a deviation application form and submit the application to

Please make sure you also follow any relevant internal process that your company may have for managing and submitting applications before submitting it to us at RSSB.

Your application must be supported by the individual who has professional responsibility for the subject area within your organisation.

Before you start your application

When completing a deviation application, you can find advice on how to set out your case in  the  ‘Guidance on applying for a deviation’.  Following this guidance will help you submit a more robust application and understand what information the Standards Committee will expect to see.   Should you require assistance with your application,  you may contact or (020 31425570).

The presentation below sets out the deviation application process through to Standards Committee and to the delivery of the final certificate. Please note this video plays without sound.


Where to find useful information on the RSSB website before completing your application

You may find it useful to check whether there are existing deviation certificates addressing the same issue:   The Deviations Register, updated every month, gives a list of all current deviations against a specific standard.  It is available in pdf or Excel format within the resources section below.

The Standards Catalogue presents a list of current and withdrawn standards together with information relevant to the issue of the standard, for example:

  • Lead and Support Standards Committees
  • Deviation certificates against this specific issue of the standard
  • Impact assessments, Briefing notes and amendments relevant to this specific issue of the standard.

Just insert the 4 last digits of the standards in the search box and check the ‘Deviations’ link in the ‘More info’ section (Note: the deviations exist only against the issue of the standards they have been authorised against).

  • The dates of the next Standards Committee meetings are available for this year and also for 2019 (subject to changes)
  • You will find that the Code defines the procedures by which the deviations from RGSs are managed. It is supported by the Standards Manual
  • Please contact RSSB to find out the Standards Committee Chair and Meeting Manager for the committee.     

What do I submit to Standards Committees?

The applicant for a deviation is responsible for providing sufficient information to enable the Standards Committee(s) to take an informed decision on your application.

  1. Application form (available from the resources section below). Applications should be submitted in electronic format to  To help you with completing the form, please see a few examples of applications at the bottom of this page
  2. Results of consultation
  3. Any additional supporting information (e.g. scheme plans, risk assessment, graphs, pedflows, etc.).

Submit your application to

Please note: If your deviation application contains a large amount of data, please request a ‘Mimecast Large File Send’ invite from either or  Otherwise, your application may be at risk of bouncing back without our knowledge.

You (or your representative) may be requested to present your case at the meeting. 

Consultation with affected parties

You will need to consult all affected parties who are likely to be materially affected by the proposed deviation and present the results of the consultation to the relevant Standards Committees. This should include a summary of any key issues raised during consultation and how these have been addressed or how you intend to address them. 

Include how you consulted the affected parties and the period of time they were given to respond, particularly if you have had a nil return on your consultation. This will help demonstrate to the Standards Committee that you have given the affected parties a reasonable opportunity to comment. 

Who are the affected parties?

Depending on the nature of the deviation, the affected parties may be:

  1. Train operators, either passenger of freight
  2. Network Rail or other infrastructure manager(s)
  3. Owners of assets (e.g. ROSCOs)
  4. Maintainers, suppliers or contractors.

To find out who the affected parties could be, you may want to refer to  the list of our RSSB members. 

If Network Rail needs to be consulted, please contact them via their consultation email address:

Timescale for submitting a deviation application 

Deviation applications should be submitted a minimum of 15 working days (three weeks) in advance of the Lead Standards Committee meeting.

You are strongly advised to submit any deviation applications as early as possible before the cut-off date (Lead and Support Standards Committee meeting dates and associated cut-off dates), so that you can respond to requests for further information prior to the meeting.  Applications submitted early are particularly important during initial design considerations or optioneering to facilitate the process for both applicants and the Standards Committee taking a decision on the application. 

Standards Committee’s decision or observations

Following Standards Committee approval or observations on your alternative provision, we will authorise the deviation and issue the Deviation Certificate. The Certificate will state the scope and duration of the alternative provisions and in the case of observations include the summary of the comments of the Standards Committee. 

Sometimes the Standards Committee approves the deviation but with modifications.
Your application may be deferred by the Standards Committee pending further information.  In such cases, the Standards Committee’s Chair and RSSB will help you with your application if necessary.  

All authorised deviations are recorded in the Deviations Register (available from the resources below). 
Please bear in mind that it is your responsibility to notify the industry parties affected by the deviation (and therefore previously consulted) about the decision of the Standards Committee.

Validity of deviation

The holder of the certificate is responsible for checking that the original assumptions and conclusions contained in the deviation certificate remain valid whenever any material changes occur.
If the conditions of the deviation certificate change, the deviation will no longer be valid. In these circumstances, the holder of the deviation certificate may consider applying for a new deviation.

Please inform the Deviation and Proposals team if you no longer require a deviation so that it can be closed.

Individual deviation certificates can be viewed in the Standards Catalogue under the relevant RGS and issue number.

Examples of deviations:

Time-limited deviation applications:

Non-time-limited deviations(valid for the lifetime of the asset)

RIS deviation applications (RIS applications are to gain guidance only)

Note: RIS certificates are issued for guidance only and would include the Lead Standards Committee and the appropriate Supporting Standards Committees' observations and comments.

New organisations

If you are a new organisation (such as new franchise holder, etc) which is now responsible for an asset or method of working which may be subject to an existing deviation, and join RSSB as a new member, you may find it useful to check what Deviation Certificates the former organisation held.  

You are advised to assess the robustness and adequacy of the current assets and methods of working (including any existing deviations) to ensure that how you plan to operate is safe and meets your legal obligations.  This assessment will either lead you to a decision to change something (potentially requiring a new deviation) or you may decide that no change is necessary. 
Application for a deviation would be triggered only if there is a need to do something materially different from the existing deviation that has already been applied by the previous organisation.
If in any doubt, then please do not hesitate to contact us and we can provide further advice relevant to your specific circumstances. 


RSSB welcomes feedback on the application process.

To provide feedback, please use the deviation feedback form linked below and email it to


Deviations register - MS Excel
Deviations register - PDF
Deviation application form
Deviation feedback form
Guidance to applicants and members of Standards Committees on deviation applications
Deviations presentation - 2018
2019 - 2020 Standards Committees Meeting Dates
Haven’t found what you’re looking for?
Get in touch with our expert for more information
Joelle Parkhurst
Tel: 020 3142 5570
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