Moving forward on safety

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When it comes to safety, Britain’s railways are one of the safest in the world. While we should be proud of this, reducing and managing risk is a continuous process of improvement through critical cross-industry collaboration. Safety leadership is at the heart of this and is vital for developing the capabilities needed to meet challenges, maximise opportunities, and deliver a safer, smarter railway.

We’re lucky enough to have one of the world’s safest rail networks. But this hasn’t happened by chance – it’s thanks to a huge amount of focus and hard work.

In fact, the reason RSSB was set up 20 years ago was to increase rail network safety. Since then, we’ve worked closely with the industry to continuously improve safety across the rail network.

We encourage and nurture cross-industry collaboration

We chair and facilitate key industry ‘risk groups’ to ensure we continue to learn from each other and focus on the most pressing areas of health, safety, and wellbeing. We examine every aspect and divide the topics into key areas, including passenger and train operations, asset integrity, freight derailment, workforce safety and level crossings, so that no area is overlooked.

And we encourage knowledge sharing across the inducstry to ensure that best practice reaches the places where it will have the greatest impact.

We’ve developed world-class expertise

Over the years we’ve instigated and contributed to hundreds of cutting-edge research projects that have increased everyone’s understanding of  health and safety on Britain’s railway. That expertise is now in demand – not just in Great Britain, but around the world.

For example, our Safety Risk Model has been helping people in GB rail take sound, risk-based decisions for over two decades. It enables decision makers to set safety priorities and analyse safety-related costs and benefits so they can confidently and demonstrably meet legal requirements and wider business objectives.

We’ve learned a lot about data

Much of our safety work relies on the industry’s shared data. RSSB manages rail’s Safety Management Intelligence System (SMIS). This encourages a culture of openly sharing information on safety events. We are continually improving SMIS to make this essential collection of data easier to contribute to, more accurate, and more usable.

We’ve adopted new tools, datasets, and analysis techniques to get more, more quickly, from that safety data – making each data point even more valuable. The Precursor Indicator Model is underpinned by huge amounts of safety data. It monitors ‘train accident precursors’: trends in the underlying risks that could lead to accidents. Meaning organisations can predict and target danger areas beforeaccidents actually occur.

Moving forward together

Everyone in rail should be proud of what we’ve all achieved so far. But this is no time to put on the brakes. The quest for safety improvement never ends. As passenger numbers rise again post-pandemic, public behaviour may be shifting: data shows increases in risky behaviour like trespassing and sitting on platform edges. SPADs still represent around 30% of total train accident risk. Near misses still take place – and, tragically, we saw more deaths in 2022-23.

Therefore, the work we and the rail industry does to manage safety never ends. And as we anticipate the arrival of control period  7, rail safety will continue to benefit from our unique foundation of expertise, knowledge, and collaboration to ensure a safer, smarter rail

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