Latest Rail News

09.04.15

West Coast Railways outsources trips to other operators after ban

West Coast Railways (WCR) has said it intends to run its trips as normal, using the licence and services of other train operators, despite being issued a suspension notice by Network Rail that bans it from operating its own services.  

The suspension notice, which came into effect on Friday 3 April, was due to “ongoing safety concerns” about WRC services. 

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “This decision has not been taken lightly, however safety will always be our number one priority. We have set out a number of actions to address the safety concerns raised and will continue to work with WCR to ensure their services can run safely in future.” 

In a letter sent to WCR, Paul McMahon, director of freight at Network Rail, said that Network Rail had had concerns about WCR’s performance of its safety obligations for some time, with recent events highlighting a potential threat to the safe operation of the railway. 

Specifically he highlighted WCR’s senior management response to the recent SPAD at SN45, which he said ranked as the most serious SPAD that has taken place this year when the industry risk ranking methodology was applied. 

The incident affected a WCR charter from Bristol to Southend on the afternoon of 7 March at Wootton Bassett Junction, when the special is reported to have passed a signal at danger. 

“The response by the senior management of WCR to the issues raised in the meeting of 30 March 2015, where WCR demonstrated that its controls, communication and commitment following the recent SPAD were inadequate,” said McMahon. “Network Rail also has serious concerns about the fact that WCR unilaterally suspended the response to Network Rail’s review of WCR’s Safety Management System undertaken in January 2015. 

“The restriction imposed on WCR while this suspension notice is in force is that no services may operate on any routes.” 

Responding to the news, WCR said that a recent breach of its safety regulations involving one of its trains crossing a red light led to discussions by both parties to establish how this happened and more importantly the preventative measures in place to ensure it can’t happen again. 

“Although no one was injured in any way WCR consider this to be sufficient to carry out a full internal enquiry with the support of Network Rail and at this time will not be running trains under their current operator licence,” said a WCR spokesperson. 

“It is our intention, where possible, to run our trips as normal, using the licence and services of other train operators, and to the previously advised times and destinations. Should there be any changes, we will advise passengers as soon as possible. Further updates will be posted to reflect any changes.” 

Network Rail has asked WCR to take action to remedy the current situation, with a view to lifting the suspension notice if the following requirements are met: 

  1. Introduce an effective, risk-based driver monitoring regime that includes proactively using analysis of On Train Data Recorder downloads for a representative and sufficient sample of diagrams;
  2. Demonstrate there is in place an effective and secure system of tamper-evident seals for train protection isolator cocks on all relevant traction;
  3. Implement arrangements to accurately record, monitor and manage all train protection activations (including Automatic Warning System and Train Protection and Warning System), and provide clear instructions to all train crew, including support crew, on the actions expected of them report and respond to train protection activation;
  4. Establish a time-bound plan to recommence and complete implementation of the actions arising from Network Rail’s review of WCR’s Safety Management System in January 2015;
  5. Review and implement appropriate changes to company processes to be able to demonstrate that all safety and operational information is received and positively acknowledged by train drivers;
  6. Demonstrate by independent assurance that there is an effective system for managing access to traction footplates/cabs in traffic, with clear communication protocols; and
  7. Clarify the safety accountabilities for each Director and independently review the effectiveness of the company’s safety assurance and governance arrangements to demonstrate that those accountabilities are discharged.  

Network Rail requires that actions 1-5 should be completed by 15 May 2015; and material demonstrable progress towards the completion of actions 6 and 7 must also be included for the same date. 

“Should these actions be achieved within these timescales to the reasonable satisfaction of Network Rail then the Suspension Notice will be withdrawn,” said McMahon. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Robert Cattaway   24/07/2015 at 17:40

Having just completed a trip this week from Victoria to Weymouth with WCR I was dismayed to come across this SPAD information, as a retired tube driver and a guard on a heritage railway I understand that there is no excuse for passing red signals other than under the protocol to do so within the rules, I certainly will not knowingly be using WCR again.

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