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New ORR safety report highlights areas for improvement

8th August 2019

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The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has published its annual report on railway health and safety, highlighting a serious incident from July, and noting three key areas which require improvement.

Though Britain has one of the safest railways in Europe, the report notes there is significant room for improvement, with seven passengers killed as a result of platform train interference in the past 12 months.

The report also highlighted a tragic incident from July, were two track workers were killed near Port Talbot, after being struck by a train. It was found the pair were wearing ear defenders and may not have heard the train approaching.

ORR director of Safety and HM Chief Inspector of Railways Ian Prosser extended his sympathy to the families of the victims and said: ‘based on evidence gathered from last year’s inspection programme, we have taken formal enforcement action to secure the wider national improvements needed to protect track workers’.

Three areas of improvement

Alongside acknowledging the tram system as an area of concern to which more resources will be devoted, the ORR report also highlighted three main areas of focus:

Increasing pressure on the system, with the introduction of new rolling stock, higher passenger demand, and issues with performance placing undue stress on the infrastructure and staff.

Technological developments, which it describes as essential for improving safety, performance and value for money. The report also notes it is essential that proper attention is paid to how people interact with the technology, and that it is properly resourced and managed.

Supporting staff. The report states ‘staff are critical for safety and are often the last line of defence’ and, whilst it acknowledges some improvement in the recognition of occupational, fatigue and mental health, it notes that industry change can add to pressure on workers which must also be managed.

Other areas of focus includes reducing the occurrence of trains passing signals without authorisation and passengers moving from train to platform and vice versa, which remains the number one cause of harm on mainline railways and second on the London Underground.

Mr Prosser said: “We are facing significant challenges not least around new rolling stock, the platform-train interface and trespass, and the whole industry must work together to ensure that safety standards are not allowed to slip’.

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