With the Olympics taking place over the next few weeks, London’s infrastructure will be under intense pressure.
Fortunately, a new report suggests that the city’s train lines are safer than they ever have been and, indeed, that the United Kingdom has one of the safest railway systems in Europe.
Released on July 24, the Office of Rail Regulation’s annual health and safety report says that with the number of passenger journeys taken into account, the overall rate of ‘harm’ on the United Kingdom’s rail network has decreased by 12 per cent over the past year and is at its lowest level on record.
The report also says that none of the London Underground, Overground or Docklands Light Railway systems suffered any form of workforce or industry caused passenger fatalities, and that the incidence of accidents on level safety crossings had improved by 15 per cent.
However, the report also highlighted further areas of concern. Although the number of ‘potentially higher risk’ train accidents in 2011/12 was at is second lowest level on record, coming in at 32, it was still up from 18 in 2010/11.
Workforce safety on the mainline railway also deteriorated slightly, with increased levels of harm to train drivers.
In terms of heritage lines, the number of safety-related improvement and prohibition notices on the lines increased from four in 2010/11 to 10 in 2011/12, though tougher enforcement may be as much of a factor in this increase as any unsafe practices.
Ian Prosser, ORR’s director of rail safety, says the report is encouraging and is welcome news for the British travelling public.
“It is to the rail industry’s great credit that safety on Britain’s railways is now largely taken for granted, comparing favourably to travel by road,” Prosser says. “Our 2012 health and safety report shows that Britain continues to have one of the safest railways in Europe. Indeed, safety on our railways is improving in key areas, with latest data highlighting that passenger harm has reduced to its lowest ever recorded level.”
He noted that the ORR has had to take steps to ensure safety on both mainline and heritage lines, as well as on train and freight services over the past year and hopes to see cooperation between all parties continue on the issue of safety.
“It is vital that the whole rail industry continues to work together, builds on its successes, and tackles areas where there is room for improvement,” he says.
Prosser says that over the coming year, ORR inspectors will focus on helping the industry to develop a cutting-edge approach to safety.
He says the key to long term success revolves around the industry making greater use of proactive, forward-looking safety systems, implementing change safely against a background of industry reform and embedding a professional culture where health and safety is ‘front and centre’ in everything it does.