The vision for this key risk area is to continue to reduce the risk relating to freight derailment, with a focus on:

  • asset integrity to ensure that freight vehicles run on suitably maintained infrastructure
  • the identification of emerging risks
  • the operation of rolling stock on the network is as designed, when considering maintenance, inspection and loading standards.

During 2019/20, 34% of potentially higher risk train accidents involved freight trains (most of these were low-speed derailments). Train axle faults and loading faults were the major precursors to these freight derailments. There was a reduction in these train axle faults and loading faults in 2019/2020 (184 events) compared to 2018/2019 (361 events). The Cross-Industry Freight Derailment Working Group (XIFDWG) have completed a project which involved completing a bowtie analysis to identify control measures to reduce the number and impact of freight derailments. There is evidence that the introduction of these measures has had an impact on the Wheel Impact Load Detection (WILD) trends for container, bulk, and infrastructure traffic. The introduction of these control measures may also be contributing to the reduction in the derailment data included within the AHSR.

What the rail industry is doing 

In the previous three years, there has been an improvement in collaborative working between the infrastructure manager, freight operating companies and their customers. This engagement and collaboration is evidenced in the development of the rail freight project charter and integrated freight safety plan. Progress against these documents are regularly reviewed. Other activities completed include (but are not limited to):

  • Development of freight derailment bowtie and quantified risk analyses.
  • Use of Wheel Impact Load Detection (WILD) reports on offset load between Network Rail, freight operating companies, and major bulk loading customers to reduce the risk of derailment.
  • Publication of a code of practice on bulk loading by the Cross-Industry Group on Preventing Freight Derailment Prevention (XIFDPG).

Strategic challenges – what industry wants to do 

The freight sector wants to work with its customers to develop approaches to ensure vehicles and wagons are loaded in compliance with loading standards. A significant customer in the process of reducing loading risk is Network Rail and its Supply Chain Operations (SCO) team. 

The freight sector also wants to:

  1. Link WILD activations with specific vehicles and wagons, to reduce offset load risks relative to derailment. This will lead to a single source of data that reliably identifies unevenly loaded wagons.
  2. Develop more effective approaches to monitoring dynamic track twist.
  3. Quantify risk and identify emerging trends of vehicles entering the network in an unsafe condition.  Develop a risk management plan that identifies immediate risk reduction initiatives and long-term mitigation objectives.
  4. Monitor the profile of freight risk and prioritise collaborative activities to address key and emerging risks.

How to get involved

There are many opportunities for you to contribute to leading health and safety on Britain’s railways. 


RSSB offers Human Factors Awareness Training to help operators better understand why people make mistakes, exploring factors that can influence human performance such as fatigue, workload and processes and procedures.