We ask the rail safety experts… Part 5

In preparation for this year’s Rail Safety Summit, we sat down with leading figures from the rail safety industry and asked them a series of pressing questions about safety practices within the rail industry.

Today’s question is:

How could the devolution of Network Rail into route responsible management improve both safety culture and performance?


Willie Baker, Emergency Incident Consultant:

I am a firm believer in healthy competition, and a measure of being healthy necessitates others to recognise and accept improvements in a mature way putting aside individual ego and petty disagreements.

I also believe that one of the arts of good management is to get out of the way of your staff! Newly appointed Route Directors now have an enormous opportunity to view their organisation and shape it into what it needs to look like, with the right people in the right place, correctly trained and appropriately resourced.

I am old enough to remember Area Managers of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, many of whom were skilled, talented people, devoted to their industry and I see the recent devolution as an exciting opportunity to build on many of the best bits of the past, as well as shape the industry for the future.

Seamus Scallon, Safety Director, UK Rail, FirstGroup:

The changes accompanying devolution will provide an excellent opportunity for both a bespoke and innovative approach to managing route risk and improving safety culture.

This should also ensure greater local knowledge and improved understanding of particular performance issues.

Currently JSIP/ JPIPs go some way to helping, but they are only just beginning to manage the interfaces between TOCs and NR.

Steve Diksa, Assurance Services Director, Bridgeway Consulting:

By making strategic route based decisions and developing close relationships with its local supply chain clients and other stakeholders, I believe that safety culture and performance could improve.

Devolution will be a challenge but also a great opportunity. The routes should better understand the local safety challenges and how best to mitigate the risks. The challenges include each doing their own thing, not fully embracing the sharing of good practice culture.

We also need to be mindful that many of the Supply Chain Providers will work in a number of the routes and different safety initiative and messages could potentially lead to confusion.

Catherine Behan, Head of HS&E Capital Programmes, Transport for London:

If it improves ownership of health and safety then it should drive improvements.

However, for this to be the Network-wide success that we all desire, it will be essential to ensure that effective mechanisms and willingness exist for sharing good practice and learning between routes.

Without this the result could just be inconsistency, which makes movement of employees and suppliers between the routes more challenging than it needs to be and is unlikely to deliver improvement.

Steve Enright, Head of Safety and Operational Standards, Southern:

Speaking again as a new entrant to the Industry it appears to be providing a real boost to the momentum and I detect positive attitudes and practical solutions coming to the fore.

One of the main benefits that we are seeing is that we are more accessible to our mirrors in Network Rail and they to us and this is leading to better working together and understanding of issues.

This openness and availability is helping people work better together which changes behaviour for the better and improves the culture.

Dr Liesel Von Metz, HM Inspector of Railways:

Devolution offers a huge opportunity. To work effectively in this industry, it’s important that we talk to each other and work together; especially as many of the challenges and risks we face are at the interfaces between different organisations.

These relationships often work better on a more local level, in a devolved structure there’s more opportunity to do this. But to make this work, we need a level of maturity in all of the organisations in the devolved structure, and a real willingness to work together to solve problems. Devolution also comes with a risk from the transfer of responsibility.

A lack of willingness to listen to each other and work constructively might compromise safety, and perhaps some Routes might be tempted to go it alone without fully understanding and managing the risks arising from doing things differently.

The strengthening and refocusing of Network Rail’s central assurance function will be an important part of ensuring the success of Devolution, and of course ORR’s inspectors will also be out there to verify that the Devolved Routes are properly managing safety.

Christian Fletcher, Director, Zonegreen:

Closer working relationships with the Train Operating Company can only be a good thing but it is still the Train Operating Company or Manufacturer who is responsible for maintaining the Rolling Stock.

It may be that Network Rail will have limited responsibility for the operational safety of maintenance depots in the future.


Monday’s ‘We ask the rail safety experts’ will see our experts answer this question:

To improve safety performance do we now need new forms of contract in the rail industry?

To read yesterday’s interview click here

The Rail Safety Summit is taking place on April 19th 2012 in Loughborough.

For more information, please visit www.railsafetysummit.com



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