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NR served with nearly £5m worth of health and safety fines in 2016-17

The rate of improvement in health and safety on the rail network has “plateaued”, the ORR has stated. It was also revealed that over the course of the last year, Network Rail paid out almost £5m in fines for three separate incidents that resulted in the company being prosecuted.

In the regulator’s annual national health and safety report for 2016-17, the chief inspector of railways, Ian Prosser, also said that besides the tragic tram crash in Croydon, there were many other incidents which could have led to serious outcomes.

The report itself stated that four particular risk areas for train companies to take heed of next year included track, harm to the mainline infrastructure workforce, electrical safety and level crossings.

It also said that key challenges facing the industry included maintaining safe and sustainable assets, as well as managing the change of franchises and rolling stock to ensure that high safety standards are maintained.

Culture and occupational health were also identified as a key focus, as Prosser stated: “Although we see pockets of excellence, the sector still has some way to go in developing its overall safety culture and management of health to achieve widespread excellence.

“Evidence shows that focusing on improving the health of the workforce not only leads to a more engaged workforce, but also to a stronger culture and a more efficient business.”

The final key challenge Prosser pointed out was the rail network having “safety by design” at its heart, encouraging companies to always take safety into consideration when introducing new strategic assets.

The report also showed that nine improvement notices were served on Network Rail last year, up from six in 2015-16. It also revealed that there had been one workforce fatality last year, despite the ORR’s target to achieve no fatalities on the railway at all.

A total of two improvement notices were served on TOCs in 2016-17, and one prosecution was taken against a charter operator, West Coast Railways, which was fined £200,000 for a signal passed at danger near Wootton Bassett Junction in Wiltshire.

It also refers to a near fatal lift shaft accident which saw London Underground fined half a million pounds at the end of 2016.

Network Rail was prosecuted three times in the year, and fined a total of £4,800,070. The biggest fine was for a fatality at Gipsy Lane crossing, which cost the infrastructure owner £4m.

Another major fine was given after a train struck a track worker performing rail maintenance work near Redhill in Surrey, resulting in multiple “serious and life-changing” injuries.

“Mainline passenger and public harm on trains and at stations was at one of the lowest levels in the last 10 years during 2016-17, with five passenger and zero public fatalities in total - one onboard passenger fatality and four passenger fatalities at stations,” Prosser wrote.

“Overall normalised harm (i.e. considering rise in passenger journeys) for train journeys was at its lowest level ever for 2016-17. There were also 33 public fatalities when considering trespass and non-station locations. Of the 33, 27 were trespassing; four were pedestrians at level crossings; and two were in road vehicles at level crossings.

“This year, I was concerned to note that the rate of improvement in health and safety on Britain’s railways has plateaued and, in addition to the tragedy of Croydon, there were other incidents which could have led to very serious outcomes,” the chief inspector continued.

“We are not taking any of this lightly and, in response, we are working with Network Rail and others to ensure that the industry refocuses closely on health and safety and builds on the excellent progress we have made in the past nine years.”

A Network Rail spokesperson told RTM: “Safety is at the heart of everything we do. As part of our Railway Upgrade Plan, we have a number of projects across the country renewing and enhancing the railway to improve its resilience, particularly against weather.

“Day to day, we have in depth reporting systems for unsafe conditions or acts which could have resulted in an incident or accident. Through careful analysis guiding early intervention, we are able to prevent accidents before they occur.

“Britain has the safest railway in Europe but there is still room for improvement. We are working closely with our industry partners to continually improve – we welcome today’s recommendations from our regulator which are all part of that process.” 

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Cornishman   12/08/2017 at 01:32

The person that contributed this column seems to have put the blame for every H&S fine on NR. I wasn't aware that NR was responsible for Croydon trams, or the TOCs. Either the title of the article is wrong, or there is a lack of understanding of who us responsible for what.

M   14/08/2017 at 08:12

Don't you mean - The British public (Tax Payers) were served with the fines as they will end up paying the bill?

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