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Britain’s railways are Europe's safest, but site safety must improve

The Office of Rail and Road has challenged Network Rail to improve site safety in its annual safety report, published today.

The report welcomes improvements in passenger safety, which have madeg Britain’s railways the safest in Europe. Britain’s rail sector has had eight consecutive years without train accident-related passenger fatalities and a second consecutive year with no passenger train derailments.

But the report highlights the need for Network Rail to do more to tackle site safety.

The report combines the findings of its inspectors with a detailed analysis of statistical trends and industry capability. It highlights the fact that the trend in harm to passengers is down by a third in the past 10 years.

But the regulator wants the rail industry to be more proactive in predicting and preventing problems on site.

It said its inspectors have also had to step in where serious issues have been found, such as insufficient safety risk assessment, lack of planning for maintenance activities, poor management of electrical working, lifting operations and working at height. 

It added that Network Rail’s slow start in undertaking maintenance and renewals work against its five year plan, could lead to increased infrastructure safety risks if work is not prioritised and managed carefully. The regulator has challenged Network Rail to identify and take steps to address this and said it will monitor and take enforcement as necessary.

The report adds that industry must take advantage of opportunities provided by its current multi-billion pound investment programme, to design out or reduce safety risks when renewing or building new infrastructure, rolling stock and equipment. 

It also adds that while there has been a significant improvement in the rail industry’s management of worker health, there is still more to do. The regulator said it was pushing the rail industry to improve its management of worker health risks, to better use data to drive change and to act on key health risks, such as hand arm vibration, musculoskeletal disorders, mental health and exposure to asbestos, silica and diesel fumes.

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