Our work to revise the route compatibility assessment standard has made the process of introducing change to the railway easier to navigate, enabling impacted parties to work more efficiently and effectively.

The standards RSSB manages and publishes are critical to efficient, effective and safe operation of the whole railway system, especially when it relies on different parties working together constructively to address an issue which crosses engineering and organisational boundaries.

One example of this is the industry’s route compatibility assessment standard. The standard relates to the introduction of new or modified vehicles or infrastructure where there is a potential impact on the asset of another party. The standard sets out the requirements for what needs to be assessed in these situations, and how. With the changes in legislation and greater clarity of legal responsibilities and obligations, it was essential to review the old standard and re-draft it to provide legal clarity.

Working closely with and coordinating a cross-industry subgroup, as well as our Standards Committees, we were able to achieve industry-wide agreement on the key principles for route compatibility as well as clarifying the legal basis for continued use of and compliance with the standard by the industry. The much-improved new standard (RIS-8270-RST), now:

  • Brings together the previously disparate legislative obligations for all parties and clearly highlights what each party needs to do
  • Provides more detail on what needs to be assessed and checked for compatibility at route level
  • Clarifies the role of the route compatibility assessment against all the other activities that need to take place as part of meeting the wider legal requirements.

The industry engagement that we facilitated also increased awareness of legal obligations for route compatibility and improved understanding of all parties on what is required. For more details, see the Briefing Note and the Impact Assessment related to this change to the standard.

While the review also came to the conclusion that the standard cannot be a Railway Group Standard, we agreed measures with the industry to ensure the revised version continues to be used by all to meet legal obligations. These include codification of the standard in ORR’s Duty of Cooperation guidance and in Network Rail’s Network Statement, post-publication.

Together these changes should make the process of introducing change to the railway easier to navigate, particularly in terms of the legalities. By following the requirements in the standard and coming to a mutually agreed and understood approach, the impacted parties can avoid unnecessary analysis, conflict, confusion and re-work, especially if a complex change is being introduced.

Safe integration

There is often confusion between the terms Technical compatibility and Safe integration.

Technical compatibility focusses on engineering compatibility between assets and does not include operational aspects of the railway which are critical to ensuring a safe railway.

Safe integration is the action to ensure that incorporating an element of a system into a bigger system does not create an unacceptable risk for the resulting system.

Technical Compatibility is just one part of Safe integration. Therefore, technically compatible does not equal ‘safe’.

The European Union Agency for Rail has published a clarification note explaining Safe Integration in more detail.

Route Compatibility self-assessment test

We have created a Route Compatibility self-assessment test to help you gauge your understanding and directs you to further guidance . The self-assessment test is anonymous. RSSB will only collect personal data on your role and the part of industry you work in. We will also collect anonymous data on the test scores. This enables us to identify which parts of the industry have used the self-assessments and gauge the level of understanding of the relevant topic. This information will allow RSSB to improve its content.

Once you have submitted your completed assessment, you will receive feedback for each of the questions you have attempted. This will contain information and links to further reading that will help you understand where there might be gaps in your knowledge.

If you feel that you would benefit from additional support in this area then, please email: wayne.murphy@rssb.co.uk.