Time to re-examine costs of safety?

matacaster

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Heavy rail is obviously a mature product. Initially safety was very poor, but over the years layer upon layer of safety measures have been added beyond that of any transport solution apart from aircraft.

A similar thing happened with mainframe computers where from an initial anything goes, there were lots of well-tried and tested procedures which were audited. When PCs came along, all of that was discarded and security of PCs is even now lax.

This effect means any newcomer, such as light rail or guided bus isn't encumbered with all the safety costs of a mature transport solution.

Is it time that a root and branch analysis of all safety systems and procedures were reexamine to see if they are required any longer or proportionate? Absolute safety is in my opinion not achievable, but disproportionate safety on rail means that it is uncompetitive.
 
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zwk500

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Do you have an idea of any procedures/systems that should be axed/modified? Safety rules aren't put into the rulebook lightly, so removing one would need a good reason to demonstrate it is not required.
Safety is regularly reviewed by TOCs, NR, the ORR and RSSB and things are frequently changed because of these. I'm not sure who'd be best placed to do root-and-branch detailed dive into it though.
 

SargeNpton

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The incident at Waterloo in August 2017 is a good example of why heavy rail safety systems need to be stringent. Directly caused by somebody disobeying the signalling safety rules that had been put into place after the Clapham Junction crash.
 

furnessvale

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Heavy rail is obviously a mature product. Initially safety was very poor, but over the years layer upon layer of safety measures have been added beyond that of any transport solution apart from aircraft.

A similar thing happened with mainframe computers where from an initial anything goes, there were lots of well-tried and tested procedures which were audited. When PCs came along, all of that was discarded and security of PCs is even now lax.

This effect means any newcomer, such as light rail or guided bus isn't encumbered with all the safety costs of a mature transport solution.

Is it time that a root and branch analysis of all safety systems and procedures were reexamine to see if they are required any longer or proportionate? Absolute safety is in my opinion not achievable, but disproportionate safety on rail means that it is uncompetitive.
You are on a hiding to nothing forwarding those views on this forum.

It is an absolute certainty that the costs of making the railways as safe as they are, means that much freight and passenger traffic is priced off, onto the road system where safety is......somewhat an afterthought.

Sadly, the whole thing needs a holistic view of ALL transport systems to find the best overall solution but nobody in the industry or government would dare to suggest it.
 

GB

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What safety aspects of the railway are pricing traffic onto roads?
 

furnessvale

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What safety aspects of the railway are pricing traffic onto roads?
The stock question whenever I suggest taking a holistic approach is to start asking for specific details.

However, one example of the different approach from a few years ago springs to mind. Foster Yeoman bought a rake of aluminium bodied hoppers. As aluminium is accustomed to doing, after some time fatigue cracks started to appear. The whole rake was condemned and scrapped. On the roads, such stress fractures in aluminium bodies are routinely welded up by shade tree mechanics and the HGV is back on the road.

Another example for you. When it is very windy, the road authorities routinely put out warnings to private motorists telling them not to use certain roads because there is a danger a HGV may be blown over on to them. Perhaps the dangerous HGV should be stopped from moving but that would never do. In a similar rail scenario, modifications have been made to all rail wagons to prevent similar blow over incidents.
 

Ken H

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What needs to be done is consider whether the costs of safety is driving people off the railway. If a safety device/procedure will save 1 death equivalent per 1,000,000 passenger miles, but the costs drive some passengers to the less safe roads, and some of those have serious accidents, is that the best way forward?
But s Furnessvale says, we need a holistic approach.
 

6Gman

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The stock question whenever I suggest taking a holistic approach is to start asking for specific details.

However, one example of the different approach from a few years ago springs to mind. Foster Yeoman bought a rake of aluminium bodied hoppers. As aluminium is accustomed to doing, after some time fatigue cracks started to appear. The whole rake was condemned and scrapped. On the roads, such stress fractures in aluminium bodies are routinely welded up by shade tree mechanics and the HGV is back on the road.

Another example for you. When it is very windy, the road authorities routinely put out warnings to private motorists telling them not to use certain roads because there is a danger a HGV may be blown over on to them. Perhaps the dangerous HGV should be stopped from moving but that would never do. In a similar rail scenario, modifications have been made to all rail wagons to prevent similar blow over incidents.
I've never heard a warning of that nature. I have heard announcements that certain bridges (and, exceptionally, stretches of road) are closed to HGVs.
 

Bletchleyite

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You are on a hiding to nothing forwarding those views on this forum.

It is an absolute certainty that the costs of making the railways as safe as they are, means that much freight and passenger traffic is priced off, onto the road system where safety is......somewhat an afterthought.

Sadly, the whole thing needs a holistic view of ALL transport systems to find the best overall solution but nobody in the industry or government would dare to suggest it.

The problem that this raises is the old adage "you can't put a value on a life". Actually, you can, and that is exactly how the value of different road safety improvements and allocation of health budgets are judged. I recall it being well over a million quid, by the way.

Unfortunately people find it difficult to accept "acceptable numbers of deaths and injuries", which is what needs to be done to discuss the idea of moving rail safety money onto roads, or onto reducing fares so people switch from roads. We do tacitly accept them, for instance road deaths or flu deaths, but people can't handle the discussion, especially when it comes to a mode of transport that has the feeling of being essentially 100% safe.
 

GB

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Another example for you. When it is very windy, the road authorities routinely put out warnings to private motorists telling them not to use certain roads because there is a danger a HGV may be blown over on to them. Perhaps the dangerous HGV should be stopped from moving but that would never do. In a similar rail scenario, modifications have been made to all rail wagons to prevent similar blow over incidents.

Re "modifications", are you talking about intermodal wagons?
 

Ken H

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The problem that this raises is the old adage "you can't put a value on a life". Actually, you can, and that is exactly how the value of different road safety improvements and allocation of health budgets are judged. I recall it being well over a million quid, by the way.

Unfortunately people find it difficult to accept "acceptable numbers of deaths and injuries", which is what needs to be done to discuss the idea of moving rail safety money onto roads, or onto reducing fares so people switch from roads. We do tacitly accept them, for instance road deaths or flu deaths, but people can't handle the discussion, especially when it comes to a mode of transport that has the feeling of being essentially 100% safe.
The money per death* should be the same for all modes.

*this should include a factor for life changing injuries. So loss of a limb = (say) 50% of a death.
 

Railsigns

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Remember the saying: "If you think safety is expensive, try having an accident".
 

furnessvale

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Re "modifications", are you talking about intermodal wagons?
Sorry, yes, intermodal wagons. I believe speed restrictions or even a complete stop was placed on such wagons if the wind speed reached a certain limit, until such modifications were made. I hope such restrictions are now lifted.

Remember the saying: "If you think safety is expensive, try having an accident".
Very true. However that cannot justify taking one form of transport so far ahead of its competitor in safety terms, that the cost of that transport means people and goods transfer en masse to the less safe form.

As I said earlier, a holistic approach is needed to ensure that OVERALL safety is achieved.
 
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seagull

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One issue is that people have a very high expectation that railways are and should be safe, fuelled by the media meltdown when any railway accident occurs and phrases like "dangerous trains" and "always crashing" start being bandied about when the reality might be that only as many people were killed or injured in that one accident as happens every single day on our roads. Another issue is that the railway environment does have potential to kill or maim a very large number of people in one go, if things go badly wrong - and whereas in a road pile-up it might be the individual drivers involved partly to blame, in a train accident there are many innocent passengers who expected to arrive safely and through no control or action of their own, didn't.

So, wildly different standards, to start with.

Another factor is that no rail company, having overseen an accident which can now be prevented by implementation of more stringent safety measures, would be willing to remove those measures, in case it happened again. It would be a very brave and probably foolish person to sign off any reduction in things which have "closed holes in the Swiss cheese".

I'm struggling to think of anything that realistically could be removed - the Rule Book is a cumbersome document (and individual TOCs Working Instructions which supplement it, just as cumbersome at times), but I just think of the outcry and uproar that would ensue should an accident happen that previously was prevented by safety measures.
 

Bletchleyite

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Absolutely - not just the financial cost but the cost to humans needs to be considered

However the railway is not an island, and while it isn't like that now, safety spending really needs to be considered as part of the transport system as a whole. If you've got say £10 million which could be spent on road or rail safety, it should almost certainly go to road, for instance.

There are three little controversial letters that could cut rail costs significantly at the cost of a slight safety reduction, for instance. (Let's not delve into a full debate on that matter in this thread, but it's a good example). And then there are those TOCs who insist on multiple guards if running units in multiple - which is just a waste of money and not even a policy that all TOCs operate!

Exactly my point. Humans are dying on the roads because they cannot afford the train fare.

That too.

I'd not reverse anything per-se, but I would consider it going forward.
 

GB

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Sorry, yes, intermodal wagons. I believe speed restrictions or even a complete stop was placed on such wagons if the wind speed reached a certain limit, until such modifications were made. I hope such restrictions are now lifted.


Very true. However that cannot justify taking one form of transport so far ahead of its competitor in safety terms, that the cost of that transport means people and goods transfer en masse to the less safe form.

As I said earlier, a holistic approach is needed to ensure that OVERALL safety is achieved.

Speed restriction if wind speed was above certain amount and conveying empty 20fts on certain wagons. The restrictions and then modification was only on FEA-B and FEA-S wagons with inward rotating spigots. The modification was as simple as welding the spigots in 20/40 configurations and having just two pairs of rotating spigots for 20/20/20 set up, not costly and allows the train continue normally. No revenue or traffic lost to roads because of this.
 

30907

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Sorry, yes, intermodal wagons. I believe speed restrictions or even a complete stop was placed on such wagons if the wind speed reached a certain limit, until such modifications were made. I hope such restrictions are now lifted.
There was such an incident on the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark, and a near-miss 2 years later. The problem with trains is that in this scenario it is likely that several wagons will be affected by the movement of one load, resulting in a part or full derailment and potentially substantial damage to another train - as it did - and infrastructure.

An individual HGV blowing over might cause a nasty accident but as it would be a single vehicle it would directly damage only a couple of others (which is potentially lethal) and cause a pile-up as people braked (which is less so) - but still the A66 and bridges get closed to them.
 

Annetts key

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Heavy rail is obviously a mature product. Initially safety was very poor, but over the years layer upon layer of safety measures have been added beyond that of any transport solution apart from aircraft.

A similar thing happened with mainframe computers where from an initial anything goes, there were lots of well-tried and tested procedures which were audited. When PCs came along, all of that was discarded and security of PCs is even now lax.

This effect means any newcomer, such as light rail or guided bus isn't encumbered with all the safety costs of a mature transport solution.

Is it time that a root and branch analysis of all safety systems and procedures were reexamine to see if they are required any longer or proportionate? Absolute safety is in my opinion not achievable, but disproportionate safety on rail means that it is uncompetitive.
Some safety requirements that apply to heavy rail do also apply to light rail and guided bus systems.

Surely rather than reducing safety on the heavy rail systems (and keep in mind the health and safety at work act applies to all companies, including heavy rail, light rail and guided bus systems), we, as a country should be increasing safety on the roads, streets and highways. For a start, discontinuing so called “smart” motorways where the hard shoulder is converted into an additional lane.

Unfortunately politics gets in the way. More voters drive and don’t want additional costs or inconvenience, and a significant number don’t think ‘it will happen to me’.

However, manufacturers are gradually increasing the safety technology in road vehicles. So at some point, legislation may well be passed requiring the use of such safety systems as a legal requirement for all new road vehicles. This could include systems to limit a vehicles speed to that of the speed limit that applies, systems that reduce a road vehicle’s speed if there is insufficient stopping/braking distance to the vehicle ahead, monitoring driver alertness and other items.
 

geoffk

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It's interesting to compare standards on UK railways with those in similar European countries where railways are unfenced and where foot crossings between platforms on secondary lines are the norm, avoiding the need for expensive bridges or lifts. The cost of replacing post-and-wire fencing with the palisade type must be enormous but can anyone put a figure on it?

Consultant Arthur D. Little's 2005 report "Risk aversion in the UK rail industry" states that "there is a pervasive and self-sustaining culture of risk-averse or over-cautious behaviour on the railways, which is increasing costs and reducing performance and which is not found in mainland Europe or Japan". Forum members will be able to say whether the situation has got better or worse in the past 16 years! Network Rail clearly believes it has to cover its back to avoid any blame for the death of a trespasser, when faced with a compensation culture imported from the USA and media-driven fear of prosecution (yet strangely US railways are unfenced and the number of level crossing accidents is way above ours).


This link is from the Independent as it's the only one that seems to work.
 

HSTEd

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It's also worth noting that "adherence to procedure", or to use a militaristic term "good drill" is not a substitute for proper engineered safety mechanisms.

See the Caledonian sleeper and the "crash this train" lever - that could have turned out really nasty - and there are undoubtedly other examples.
 

Tim M

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Is it time that a root and branch analysis of all safety systems and procedures were reexamine to see if they are required any longer or proportionate? Absolute safety is in my opinion not achievable, but disproportionate safety on rail means that it is uncompetitive.
You would have to be very brave indeed to challenge safety standards for signalling systems. I agree that absolute safety is not achievable, that’s why the standards use the As Low as Reasonably Practicable principle in analysing safety. There are many international standards that are used in for example the design of safety software. I have seen new players to the industry fail to demonstrate the necessary level of safety to independent assessors, the case in point was in Norway and heads rolled as a result.

Just think what would happen if there was an accident as a result of your suggestion, the newspapers, particularly the red tops would have your guts for garters.
 

Annetts key

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It's interesting to compare standards on UK railways with those in similar European countries where railways are unfenced and where foot crossings between platforms on secondary lines are the norm, avoiding the need for expensive bridges or lifts. The cost of replacing post-and-wire fencing with the palisade type must be enormous but can anyone put a figure on it?

Consultant Arthur D. Little's 2005 report "Risk aversion in the UK rail industry" states that "there is a pervasive and self-sustaining culture of risk-averse or over-cautious behaviour on the railways, which is increasing costs and reducing performance and which is not found in mainland Europe or Japan". Forum members will be able to say whether the situation has got better or worse in the past 16 years! Network Rail clearly believes it has to cover its back to avoid any blame for the death of a trespasser, when faced with a compensation culture imported from the USA and media-driven fear of prosecution (yet strangely US railways are unfenced and the number of level crossing accidents is way above ours).


This link is from the Independent as it's the only one that seems to work.
One thing that has happened in the past and still applies now, is that after a major incident or accident on the railway, a formal investigation is launched. This started in the past due to pressure on the government of the day. Which then put pressure on the railway companies. And it’s the government that in some cases has introduced laws requiring certain safety systems or procedures that apply to the railways.

Both the investigation reports from RAIB and investigations from ORR are powerful influences on the mainland U.K. railway companies. It would be a very brave company to try to ignore these…

In comparison, there has been relatively little similar incident or accident investigation on the road network, unless the police force for the area decides to investigate. And they generally do not make formal recommendations of safety improvements.

The major safety improvements for the road network have been changes to the requirements for new motor vehicles, which manufacturers have to comply with, and checks/tests at each MOT. Some speed limits have been reduced. Plus some work at some road junctions to improve safety. Unfortunately at the same time, some road junctions have been made worse. And the removal of hard shoulders on so called ‘smart’ motorways is also a reduction in safety.

The other thing to consider, is that safety systems using automation and technology are far more practical on the railways compared to trying to do the same on the road network. And there are a relatively small number of railway companies to hold to account compared to millions of individuals or companies on the road network.

Would it be possible to substantially increase safety on the road network? Yes. Would it be politically acceptable? Unlikely.
 

Bletchleyite

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It's interesting to compare standards on UK railways with those in similar European countries where railways are unfenced and where foot crossings between platforms on secondary lines are the norm, avoiding the need for expensive bridges or lifts. The cost of replacing post-and-wire fencing with the palisade type must be enormous but can anyone put a figure on it?

There are still UK secondary lines with unprotected foot crossings the norm, e.g. the Penistone Line, Cambrian Coast and I think Conwy Valley.

I would suggest one viable cost saving to be that for lines where the linespeed is 75mph or below, where the service is infrequent (1tph or less in each direction), and where all trains call at all stations (so drivers can pass such crossings at a speed where they can stop in the distance they can see to be clear without lots of time being lost), this should be the accepted norm, thus obviating the need to pay for and maintain lifts and footbridges, and allowing new stations to be simply platforms with bus shelters so much cheaper. Light rail concepts like this fit this sort of line well.
 

matacaster

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One glaring example of really poor road safety standards. Many road vehicles rely on wing mirrors which do not provide full visibility behind whilst reversing. Also some very large vehicles have a notice saying "if you can't seey mirrors I can't see you". This is an absolute cop out, the law should require ALL road vehicles to have full 360 degrees coverage, via cameras if necessary. This is also a danger to pedestrians (particularly young children) ,cyclists and motor cyclists. The technology is pretty cheap and available.

Maybe this comment should be in roads thread really, but it really rankles with me.

There are still UK secondary lines with unprotected foot crossings the norm, e.g. the Penistone Line, Cambrian Coast and I think Conwy Valley.

I would suggest one viable cost saving to be that for lines where the linespeed is 75mph or below, where the service is infrequent (1tph or less in each direction), and where all trains call at all stations (so drivers can pass such crossings at a speed where they can stop in the distance they can see to be clear without lots of time being lost), this should be the accepted norm, thus obviating the need to pay for and maintain lifts and footbridges, and allowing new stations to be simply platforms with bus shelters so much cheaper. Light rail concepts like this fit this sort of line well.
That sounds like a reasonable suggestion.
 

ComUtoR

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Remove liability and you will see plenty of safety measures removed.
 

Falcon1200

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Network Rail clearly believes it has to cover its back to avoid any blame for the death of a trespasser, when faced with a compensation culture imported from the USA and media-driven fear of prosecution (yet strangely US railways are unfenced and the number of level crossing accidents is way above ours).

Not fear of prosecution - Actual prosecution as per this incident (Network Rail fined £135,000 over fence which led to serious burns for boy, 13 - BBC News):

And this one - Not NR in this case (Birtley rail firm fined £2.7m after boy electrocuted - BBC News):

So it is not surprising that the railway has to spend huge sums maintaining fences, even though in many, if not most, cases, the damage to fencing has been caused by the local population, not the railway.

One area where I do believe safety rules could be amended, to improve performance, is route knowledge stipulations. Not for huge diversions but where, for example, Drivers have been unable to divert from their booked route onto a Goods Line - parallel with the main line ! - Or via lines which deviate from their booked route, but only for a short distance and entirely within sight of the booked route, because the Driver has not 'signed the route'. In these examples the Driver should be able to take the diversion with the conditions that a) The Signaller sets the route throughout onto, through, and off, the diversion, and b) The move is made at 5mph max.
 

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