Train Operations

Enhancing the safety of train operations is one of the twelve key risk areas the rail industry is addressing in its strategy, Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s Railways.

Over 1.8 billion journeys are made by train every year and, as a passenger, rail is still one of the safest ways to travel. However operational incidents still occur regularly, and risk in some areas is still rising, for example in SPAD risk. Many of these risk areas either involved multiple parties—drivers and signallers—or they recur across member companies.  So, collaboration is key to efficiently improving industry performance. 

What challenges are we collaborating on?

Within LHSBR, the topic of 'Train operations' covers a wide range of train accident risk, and the scope of the Train Accident Risk Group (TARG) covers much of that risk. Although work will continue to improve risk across the range of risk, not all are among the priority areas identified in LHSBR. Some priority risk areas that used to be covered by 'Train operations' now have their own remits, such as workforce safety in depots, and rolling stock asset integrity. Within the area of train operations there is a focus on five issues, each with challenges to be met over the next three years. These are around SPAD management, train protection migration strategy, train over-speeding, safety critical communications, and improved work in a devolved industry structure. The strategic challenges are summarised below and more detail can be found in LHSBR.

Challenge 1: There is inconsistency across the industry in how SPAD risk is managed: 

This challenge will be met by an effective SPAD strategy being developed, embedded and used within the industry to better understand the root causes of SPADs and to manage and reduce the risk.

Challenge 2: The industry doesn’t fully understand the context in which signals are approached at danger and where the likelihood of a SPAD is greatest. 

This challenge will be met by the industry consistently using the Red Aspects Approaches To Signals (RAATS) Toolkit and the Red Aspects Approaches by Train Service (RABYTS) information to normalise SPAD data and better understand which signals are most at risk from a SPAD. This will improve SPAD management, enable more targeted intervention measures, and may also improve operational performance.

Challenge 3: Currently the industry doesn’t have a detailed migration strategy for how existing and novel train protection solutions should be implemented over the next 50 years.

This will be met by industry agreeing a train protection strategy with a clear implementation path to fitting ETCS where applicable, and alternative solutions where this is not possible.

Challenge 4: The risk from over-speeding and the effectiveness of controls and mitigations are not fully understood.

This will be achieved through the production of an industry-wide strategy to improve the management of trains over-speeding.

Challenge 5: Safety critical communications continue to be a significant factor in incidents.

This will be achieved through the launch and embedding of this safety critical communications strategy, and other supporting initiatives will help improve the standard of communications across the industry.

Challenge 6: There is inconsistent collaboration in managing train accident risk at the route and regional levels.

This will be achieved through the use and monitoring of collaboration, and implementation of the requirements published in RIS-3704-TOM.

There are a number of other areas of managing train accident risk where TARG also carries out work, for example (but not limited to) stop shorts, station over-runs, derailment, permissive working irregularities. The full scope of TARG’s work and its risk profile can be found in its remit.

How to get involved

There are many opportunities for you to contribute to improving train operations as part of leading health and safety on Britain’s railways. Industry is encouraged to join, or work with:

  • Train Accident Risk Group (TARG): Has developed and is responsible for the industry delivery plan to improve the management of train accident risk. TARG also sponsors topic-specific ‘task and finish’ groups to collaborate around risk areas within its remit, and to support the delivery of the strategic challenges listed above.
  • SPAD Risk Subgroup (SPAD RSG): this group works with TARG and their OPSRAMs and TOSGs to monitor SPAD performance and the implementation of industry initiatives.
  • Heritage Trains Risk Group (HTRG): this is a niche group, comprised of heritage sector operators, to manage train accident, as well as station operations and workforce risk management.
  • Train Protection Strategy Group (TPSG): this group reports through the Vehicle/Train Command & Control System Interface Committee around management and development of train protection systems strategy.
  • Train Over-Speed Task and Finish Group and other LHSBR topic Task and Finish Groups are being established (summer 2020).  For more information contact Philippa Murphy at RSSB.
  • Rail Delivery Group Passenger Operations Safety Group (POSG): this group aims to brings all TOCs together to improve safety across the industry. This includes train operations.


Train Operations 2019/20
Haven’t found what you’re looking for?
Get in touch with our Principal Strategy Implementation Manager – Train Operations for further information.
Philippa Murphy
Tel: 020 3142 5641
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