What are National Safety Rules?

Annex II of the Railway Safety Directive (Directive 2016/798 and Directive 2004/49/EC) identifies the different categories of NSRs. Essentially, NSRs are there to meet relevant safety and operational obligations (such as accident investigations and medical fitness of safety critical staff) rather than engineering rules to support the design and approval of railway assets.

NSRs are only allowed where requirements or obligations are not yet covered in EU or domestic legislation, or where they allow a different approach to cater for country-specific needs. Existing legislation now covers most areas but the industry has the option to retain any good practice in documents not imposed by the regulator, such as Rail Industry Standards (RISs) or Rail Industry Guidance Notes (GNs).

How do National Safety Rules relate to Railway Group Standards?

The Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (as amended) requires that infrastructure managers and railway undertakings have a safety management system (SMS) that contains the elements set out in Schedule 1.

Specifically, Schedule 1 (2)C sets out that SMSs must include: ‘procedures to meet relevant technical and operational standards or other requirements as set out in …. national safety rules’.

For the GB mainline railway network, Railway Group Standards (RGSs) are developed by RSSB and agreed by those representing the breadth of the industry through RSSB-managed standards committees. RGSs are imposed on those operating the railway via their licence conditions and some of them contain NSRs.

Why have National Safety Rules in Railway Group Standards been reviewed?

It is only possible to have NSRs where existing legal obligations have an explicitly recognised gap, or permit a GB-specific way of doing something. Regulations such as the Common Safety Methods (CSMs), the Operation and Traffic Management Technical Specifications for Interoperability (OPE TSI), and other legal obligations, have filled the no gaps where an NSR would be defined and imposed by the regulator on those operating the railway. Therefore, requirements in RGSs which are NSRs need either to be withdrawn or transferred elsewhere.

The Industry Strategy for Standards, approved by the RSSB Board at the end of 2015 includes a module on NSRs which contains more details.

What is being done to retain useful GB specific good practice which may be lost?

Areas where RGSs can no longer set out NSRs, but represent good industry practice or help industry contextualise European requirements for Britain, could be retained (with industry agreement) in a Rail Industry Standard (RIS) or a Rail Industry Guidance Note (GN) without any change to the requirements. This allows the industry to continue to use GB good practice; and for it to be managed centrally on behalf of the industry by RSSB. As no requirements have changed, the industry can continue using the NSR requirements to meet their existing legal obligations, and manage and influence changes to any retained requirements in a RIS or GN.

You can find the list of RGSs which have been or are affected by these changes here.

Further information

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