Making standards work for you

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Learn about standards, how you can use them, and how they can help your organisation in many ways.


The word ‘standards’ may sound off-putting and inflexible, but they can be your organisation’s biggest ally. The purpose of standards is to help improve performance and efficiency.

While different standards bodies have different remits, all standards aim to make designing, operating, maintaining, and decommissioning systems easier, more cost effective, and more efficient. Some standards apply only to rail, others apply to many different industries.

We are the honoured custodians of four types of standards for rail. They are: 

  • Railway Group Standards (RGSs)
  • Rail Industry Standards (RISs)
  • Rail Industry Guidance Notes (GNs) and Good Practice Guides
  • National Operational Publications (NOPs), such as the Rule Book 

Train station at night image

In addition, we facilitate the industry recommendation for the content of National Technical Specification Notices, which are published by the Secretary of State for Transport.

These railway standards help industry, and our experts are an integral part of that support, managing their development from the start. We do this in accordance with the Railway Standards Code and Railway Standards Manual which govern the management of railway standards. 

As set out in the Railway Standards Manual, standards go through a lifecycle, with clear phases from an initial idea through to consultation, publication, and implementation. 

The implementation of standards is a large and complex area. Fortunately, our experts have the benefit of many years of experience and understanding for the whole industry. This means that a proposal to create or change a standard can be addressed by a deviation, or with advice from our experts on an existing standard as a new standard isn’t always the response needed.


Whatever the nature of a specific initial idea, they’re all evaluated, both by our experts and the industry experts on our standards committees. The evaluations include deviations. 
In addition, each standard is reviewed after 12 months, then every five years. The standard may remain the same, be amended, withdrawn, or a change may be proposed, depending on the results of industry consultation and the decisions of our standards committees.

However, it’s very important that our colleagues in industry don’t imagine that their ideas or questions are too small, too early or late, or too left-field to raise with us. On the contrary, we want to hear from standards users at all points of their journey, whatever their question or suggestion may be. This enables us to identify the most effective way to address challenges while remaining compliant with standards. It also gives us insights into the type of support that standards users in general need.

Our support processes enable two different types of conversation about standards: seeking help from us, or providing insights to us. Both are equally valuable.


If you’re a standards-newbie, or aren’t sure how to proceed, please use our ‘Request for Help’ process. If you know the relevant standard for your challenge very well, you may already know that you want to apply for a deviation or have an opinion on alternative arrangements for a RIS. In those instances, we have different dedicated advice and procedures for you to follow, which you can find linked below.

Those wanting to share their insights with us can do this either as part of a standards consultation or as part of their ongoing activities. We have separate processes for these too so that your contributions don’t get lost. 

We’re also keen to hear from you if you’re implementing an alternative arrangement to a RIS, and we’d appreciate your feedback. This helps us understand where standards need to improve, and we can provide observations from the relevant standards committee to help you.

If you need help not covered here please use the ‘Request for Help’ process, we’ll be very happy to help.

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Sharing standards insights with us

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