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Network Rail pledges to stamp out safety complacency

The rail industry must avoid complacency when it comes to doing more to improve safety, a senior Network Rail figure has warned.

The rail infrastructure owner and operator aims to deliver its next five year programme of work without any major injuries or fatalities.

To do that complacency must be stamped out, Network Rail Infrastructure Projects Southern regional director Nick Elliott told NCE. He said particular focus was needed on examining near misses.

“We’ve not done too badly in recent years, but that is almost the problem,” said Elliott. “People begin to not feel the impetus to change.

“But when you look at [our good] health and safety records on fatalities or major injuries that show how many near misses there are, there are far too many. We can’t be complacent.”

Elliott was speaking at a Network Rail event last Friday, formally launching the organisation’s £4bn electrification programme.

He was responding directly to the news of a death at a Crossrail tunnelling site in central London earlier that morning.
He said that new Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne’s philosophy was that if the work required could not be done safely it should not be done at all.

A year ago, a Carillion worker died while working on the railway. Elliott said Network Rail decided it had to make the accident a “watershed moment”, and this has driven its commitment to zero deaths or major injuries during Control Period 5, which covers Network Rail’s next five year spending period.

Elliott added that the rail sector was too far behind the oil and gas industry which has made dramatic progress in process safety following high profile disasters such as the Piper Alpha fire in 1988.

Carne comes with significant experience from the oil and gas industry, having served as executive vice president for Shell in the Middle East and North Africa.

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