Freight Safety - The Condition of Freight Vehicles on the Network

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In this episode Dave Ethell, latterly Head of Safety Operations for DB Cargo UK, and Devon Johnson about the work they are doing to assure the condition of freight vehicles that go onto the rail network. Devon talks about how the role of ground staff in freight depots and yards has changed over recent years. She also talks about the work she has done to improve the conditions for ground staff in freight depots and yards as they carry out their vital and often challenging work to ensure the safety of freight vehicles.

Listen to the podcast 

Topics in this episode include:

  • Devon introduces herself and describes how she came to her current role in the railway.  [01:53]
  • Dave introduces himself and describes his railway career.  [02:34]
  • Dave explains the work and aims of the Condition of Freight Vehicles on the Network (CFVN) Working Group. And describes the breadth and depth of issues that face the freight sector.  [04:07]
  • Dave talks about how well the project has been received by the freight sector and how the various stakeholders are working together.  [05:39]
  • Dave describes the CFVN project's strategic activities. These include measuring risk, developing improvement plans and embedding best practice in safety management systems across the sector. Dave also touches on two core workstreams for the project: train preparation and loading, and the condition of vehicles presented for service delivery. [06:42]
  • Devon talks about the train preparation and loading workstream and how it has been structured.  About the survey responses from freight ground staff and their willingness to engage in the project.  [08:28]
  • Devon talks about her experience of talking with the trackworker safety. About the openness and honesty of the ground staff in describing their situation and proposing solutions to some of the issues.  [10:33]
  • Devon describes some of the specific themes that came out of her discussions with the ground staff. In particular the variety of tasks and responsibilities of the role today.  [11:29]
  • Devon gives her thoughts on how training for ground staff roles has and should be developed. She talks about the potential need for enhancing non-technical skills, and the need to upgrade the facilities in which, and equipment with which ground staff have to work. Devon highlights two quick wins that Freightliner has adopted for its yards and depots. [13:58]
  • Dave talks about what the CFVN working Group will do with the data it has gathered. Particularly with respect to working environments and some of the tools needed to support the variety of tasks undertaken. Also in the plan are continued work on human factors aspects of the work: in train preparation and engineering processes.  [16:40]
  • Dave talks about what the project hopes to achieve through the CFVN project. This includes reducing delays attributable to freight services, and standardising freight train preparation and loading procedures across the network. Which will involve continuing to listen to and learn from front line ground staff.  [18:16]
  • Close.  [19:28]

Resources mentioned in this episode:

RSSB podcasts cover a range of topics to keep you informed about things that will lead us all toward a better, safer railway. 'All our podcasts can be accessed from our podcast page.


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