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Network Rail lifts suspension of West Coast Railways’ track access rights

West Coast Railways has won back its right to operate services on the national rail network, after it “satisfactorily addressed” all of the actions set out in Network Rail’s suspension notice.

A letter from Paul McMahon, Network Rail’s director of freight, confirmed the lifting of the ban yesterday. West Coast Railways will be allowed to start operating services again as of tomorrow.

The letter said: “We welcome the commitment West Coast Railways has made to improving safety management; the changes to your Safety Management System (SMS); and the three new roles (director/general manager, head of safety and non-executive director) being introduced to strengthen safety leadership and corporate governance.

“We note your appointment before services recommence of your new non-executive director and Alex McGregor of Lloyds Register as interim head of safety pending the permanent appointment; and for the ongoing engagement of First Class Partnerships to ensure that changes to the SMS are implemented effectively.

“We recognise and welcome that you intend to put in place a phased return of services, to allow you and your most experienced staff to implement your new procedures before use with a wider range of services.”

WCR was unavailable to comment on the lifting of the suspension, however the company sent out a tweet this morning:

While the track access rights have been returned, WCR is still in danger of losing its safety certification as the ORR investigates the company in relation to the SPAD at Wootton Basset Junction that resulted in the original suspension notice.

An ORR spokesman told RTM last month: “The rail regulator has notified the West Coast Railway Company that it is reviewing the company’s safety certification – needed to operate trains on the rail network. This follows a serious incident on 7 March 2015, when a train passed a signal at danger near Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire. Our initial investigation has found significant weaknesses in the company’s safety management systems.

“ORR is carrying out further assessments to determine whether health and safety laws were breached, and the appropriate enforcement action required.”

The process to review WCR’s safety certification started on 17 April and takes 28 days. During this time the ORR will consult with train operators, unions and other interested parties to get their views.

(Image source: Peter Trimming)

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