Rail safety: risk managed

Rail safety has improved significantly over recent years, but more needs to be done to tackle the challenging issues of trespassers on tracks, accidents at level crossings and a growing number of track suicides.

In 2012, more than 2,000 significant accidents were recorded on railways in the EU, costing the industry an estimated EUR 1.7 billion in network downtime, repairs to infrastructure and rolling stock and insurance costs.

And while these numbers point to an improvement in railway safety on previous years, with 1,133 fatalities and 1,016 serious injuries recorded in 2012, the case for more concerted effort from the industry as a whole is clear.

Maintaining an appropriate, up-to-date risk management strategy is not only a prerequisite to attracting investment, it’s also fundamental to improving rail safety at a network level.

Following a spate of incidents at level crossings in the UK, Network Rail began implementing a national level crossing safety improvement programme, resulting in the closure of 10% (750) of all level crossings and a hard-hitting advertising campaign highlighting the risks at level crossings for drivers and pedestrians.

In Belgium, infrastructure manager Infrabel introduced TBLI+ across its network. a new system that automatically applies the train’s brakes if a warning signal is passed at danger (SPAD). Prompted by the Buizingen collision in 2010 which killed 18 people, its implementation cut the number of SPADs from 104 to 75 in less than two years.

Actively managing and controlling risks across rail networks, as highlighted in these two examples, has a direct and significant impact on the insurance premiums paid by rail operators. But total support from railway senior management is key to embedding the necessary ‘safety-first’ culture that will protect all rail users, secure long-term investment and keep insurance costs low.

At this year’s RSA Rail Centre of Excellence forum, hosted by RSA Chief Executive Stephen Hester, we’re bringing together senior leaders from across the rail and insurance industries to discuss how the right risk management strategy, coupled with a genuine commitment to improving rail safety, will ensure that rail continues to be the safest way to travel for years to come.