For over 20 years we have been working with industry to ensure that innovative and sustainable technology is operated safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively in Britain and abroad. Throughout this time we have been collaborating with operators and innovators, co-ordinating research and development, and codifying technical knowledge that is crucial for rail.

So much has changed since we were established in 2003. By looking forward and evolving we strive to meet the sector’s changing needs while maintaining safety and reducing costs—both our own and those across the industry.  We will continue to work independently and collaboratively with our members to find the best route forward for rail.

Scroll down to explore key milestones along our journey over the past two decades.



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Rail Safety and Standards Board established

In 2003 the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) was established based on recommendations from Lord Cullen's public inquiry into the Ladbroke Grove rail crash. One of Britain’s worst rail accidents in 20th-century with 31 people tragically killed and 417 injured.


Investigation into the Ufton Nervet rail crash

The formal inquiry into the Ufton Nervet rail crash–a train collided with a car on a level crossing killed 7 people and injured more than 100—fed into several RSSB’s research projects. The research identified safety benefits and facilitated the creation of Rail Operations Centres which have progressively taking over from signalling centres.

Railway Group Standards Code assigned to RSSB 

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) assigned Issue one of Railway Group Standards Code to RSSB. The Railway Group Standards Code, commonly referred to as ‘the Code’, is a fundamental part of the organisational structure for standards in the GB railway. It is based upon the World Trade Organisation principles for the development of International Standards which were agreed by the Technical Barriers to Trade Committee in 2000. The Code is approved by the industry regulator ORR, and has been a part of how RSSB operates right from the start.



Removal of Mark 1 rolling stock

By the end of 2005, RSSB had overseen the removal of Mark 1 rolling stock from the network. British Railways’ first standardised design, these vehicles had poor crashworthiness due to a relatively weak body shell and resulted in fatalities and injuries connected with the slam doors and the pull-down windows.


Introduced the Rail Industry Standards

A new category of standards, Rail Industry Standards (RIS), were introduced to define functional or technical requirements for circumstances where railway system management does not need a Railway Group Standard. In 2023 the majority of RSSB’s standards documents are RIS.


Developed the All Level Crossing Risk Model 

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To manage risks at level crossings, RSSB developed the All Level Crossing Risk Model (ALCRM), in partnership with Network Rail. A web-based risk tool, it supports on-going data collection to compare and actively manage risk at different types of crossings in a consistent way. The tool was updated in 2017 to improve its accuracy and functionality.

Investigation into the Grayrigg derailment 

The Grayrigg derailment was a fatal railway accident that resulted in the death of one passenger and injuries to around 80% of passengers mostly due to secondary impacts from objects within carriages. It had major repercussions for the network. It fed into several projects informing new standards that mandated laminated glass which can withstand much greater impacts and increase survivability. Other research informed standards for safer tables, seats, the overall structure of the carriages, and similar matters.


Reviewed process for safer decision-making 

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Extensive research was carried out around safer decision making in rail to identify legal requirements, protect staff, passengers, and others, and remain commercially sound. This led to the publication of Taking Safe Decisions issue 1, guiding organisations to incorporate safety in decision-making. A key industry document ever since, it is now on its third edition (2019).


Explored digital technologies for Control Period 6 and beyond 

Wheel on rail headTo improve the network’s performance with digital technologies, the UK planned major enhancement and investment for Control Period 6 and beyond. Given the country’s conventional signalling systems and train operations this was a significant challenge. The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), which comprises the European Train Control System (ETCS), entered service in 2011 on the Cambrian Line from Sutton Bridge Junction to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli. RSSB led the operational design and provided technical support from inception in 2006. This was the first of what were originally several early deployment schemes of ERTMS envisaged by the ERTMS Programme.

Launched SPARK

To help the global rail research community find and share research, capabilities, and expertise, RSSB launched a new platform, SPARK. This knowledge hub is promoted in partnership with UIC, the worldwide railway organisation, and is a key resource for industry’s research work.


Established a Health and Wellbeing capability 

Wheel on rail headTo improve health and wellbeing we introduced a dedicated team of experts with links to the industry and other safety practitioners. Later, this became the Health and Wellbeing section of LHSBR and has gone from strength to strength, with the development of the Health and Wellbeing Index (and dashboard), the fatigue survey, and the mental health survey. We also developed – with Southeastern – The Railway Mental Health Charter, which has just received its 100th signatory.



Introduced a new vehicle database platform 

Wheel on rail headThe Central Stock Register was established in 1948 and then moved to the Rolling Stock Library (RSL) in the 1960s. In 2015, R2 was introduced as the modern required vehicle database platform to improve maintenance planning. Although based on the previous registers, R2 is more efficient and user friendly. It holds details of UK railway registered vehicles and tracks, their life history, and major components. Today R2 is used by around 70 organisations across the GB rail industry.



The first publication of the industry’s safety and health strategy 

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The industry’s publication of the Leading Health & Safety on Britain’s Railway, known widely as LHSBR led to the establishment of the safety risk groups we know today. This helped to increase focus on collaborative working across more key areas, including health and wellbeing and asset integrity.

Investigated risks of Global System for Mobile Communications failure

RSSB developed a risk model to identify what happens if the Global System for Mobile Communications – Railway (GSM-R) fails. The model showed there is a slight increase in risk, but trains can continue to run to avoid bigger increases in risk elsewhere, like crowding on stations due to cancelled trains. The model received widespread industry.

Publication of the Rail Standards Strategy 

RSSB produced the first Rail Standards Strategy. The strategy improved categorisation of requirements and alignment with European and domestic legal frameworks.  Also, it accelerated the migration of requirements from Railway Group Standards to Rail Industry Standards. Having achieved its aim, it was replaced by a new strategy in 2020.