A lot has changed in the technical, political and regulatory landscapes since the strategy for CP5. As a result, there was a need to develop a new strategy that reflects these changes, provides a focus for standards-related activities and addresses the broader industry challenges and opportunities.

Setting a strategic direction for standards helps the Industry Standards Coordination Committee (ISCC) and our other standards committees meet the requirements of the Railway Group Standards Code and Standards Manual and supports the production and use of railway standards.

The vision of the Rail Standards Strategy is for standards to be “well recognised and valued for helping the industry to economically and efficiently manage infrastructure, trains, operations and compatibility between these railway subsystems”.  

The aim is for “standards to be widely seen as being helpful, adopted easily, appropriately and confidently across the industry”.  The strategy includes a series of actions, under five main themes, to be undertaken over five years.

The Rail Standards Strategy addresses evolving challenges and new opportunities that the railway industry has; including the need to reduce cost (especially post-Covid-19), new technology, the increasing demands for higher performance, decarbonisation and sustainability and the changing regulatory landscape influenced by Brexit.

The industry will benefit from the strategy by having a clear vision which sets direction for future standards change, necessary to ensure standards continue to support economic benefits, embrace innovation and are compatible with changes to regulations post-Brexit.  The actions will result in standards that genuinely meet industry need, are delivered effectively and when needed, with active support for implementation to easily realise the benefits of the standards.

Three main areas of prominence in the strategy are:

  1. Supporting economic regeneration, increasing freight: Standards will support economic regeneration by facilitating a reduction in the cost of designing and operating the railway.  This will help the railway recover from Covid-19, increase freight competitiveness, and will support government and industry initiatives to invest in infrastructure and the regions
  2. Enabling innovation through implementation of digitisation, better use of data and greener traction energy sources: The strategic vision for rail supports the use of digital technologies to make better use of the existing infrastructure and capacity.  Standards will support the introduction and safe integration of innovative technologies, for example low-carbon options such as hydrogen, multi-mode trains and battery technology and support the capability to store, manipulate, analyse and model large amounts of data in real time. 
  3. Post-Brexit standards landscape: RSSB will support the Secretary of State for Transport’s decision-making process for alignment or divergence from European regulations by using existing industry-agreed governance arrangements, taking advantage of new opportunities or maintaining alignment, based on impartial, objective analysis and industry consensus.  Recommendations will reflect the specific needs/views of different railway networks (GB Mainline, HS2, HS1, Northern Ireland, etc.) with the possibility of different approaches across the UK rail network where justified.