About us

What we do

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) independently investigates accidents to improve railway safety, and inform the industry and the public.

Who we are

Lord Cullen’s inquiry report on the Ladbroke Grove rail accident in 1999 recommended the creation of an organisation to independently investigate railway accidents to improve safety. RAIB became operational in October 2005 as the independent body for investigating accidents and incidents on mainline railways, metros, tramways and heritage railways throughout the UK.

We employ inspectors and principal inspectors with either a professional railway or investigation background. We have given them extensive training in railway operations, railway engineering and investigation skills. Including the inspectors and the team who provide essential business support, we have a total staff of 43 people.

We’re based in operational centres in Derby and Farnborough. Having two centres means we can respond quicker to accidents in any part of the UK.

Our investigations are focused solely on improving safety. We are not a prosecuting body and do not apportion blame or liability. Possible breaches of legislation are dealt with by other organisations, usually the police and safety authorities.

We are totally independent and our Chief Inspector reports the outcomes of investigations to the Secretary of State for Transport. An introduction to the RAIB

Our responsibilities

We’re responsible for:

  • investigating the causes of railway accidents and incidents where we believe our investigation will bring safety learning to the industry
  • identifying the factors that may lead to a similar accident or make the consequences worse
  • highlighting gaps in the railway industry’s safety defences that are revealed during our investigations
  • making recommendations to prevent the same thing happening again
  • increasing awareness of how railway accidents happen
  • co-operating with other investigation organisations nationally and internationally to share and encourage good practice.

Whenever we investigate, we publish the results as an investigation report. We also produce safety digests, which highlight learning points which have emerged from our preliminary examination of an event.

RAIB’s scope

RAIB investigates accidents and incidents which occur on the UK main line networks (Network Rail and Northern Ireland Railways), London Underground, other metro systems, tramways, heritage railways and the UK part of the Channel Tunnel. Operators of these types of railway and tramway have a duty under the law to notify RAIB of some types of accidents and incidents. Some operations that may seem to be related to railways are not actually within the scope of our powers. Locations and systems which are wholly or partly out of scope include:

  • Self-contained railways entirely on private land which do not cross a carriageway (by a level crossing, bridge or tunnel)
  • Industrial railway systems (including docks)
  • Museums
  • Funfairs
  • Cliff lifts

We have published full guidance on our scope, as well as guidance on the types of event which are required to be notified to us.

We monitor operations on the major networks through various industry reporting systems. We have the legal power and the discretion to decide to investigate any event that occurs on a system that is within our scope, not just those that have to be notified to us.

Some events on the main line railways that result in death or serious injury will not be investigated by RAIB (and in some cases they do not have to be notified to us). There are two main reasons why this may happen. In many cases, from the information available at the time, it appears that the person concerned has deliberately trespassed or otherwise put themselves in harm’s way. Sometimes we are satisfied, after making enquiries, that although an accidental sequence of events has resulted in tragic consequences, there are no safety lessons to be learned, and so we will not investigate further.

RAIB’s response to notifications

On being notified of an accident or incident, our normal approach is to obtain sufficient information to decide how to respond.

UK legislation

The Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003(the 2003 Act) established the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), and Section 8 of the Act provides the powers that our inspectors use during their investigations. We have published guidance to assist with using the act.

The Railways (Accident Investigation and Reporting) Regulations 2005 (SI1992)(the 2005 Regulations) set out the details of the RAIB’s duties, the scope of our work and our dealings with other people and organisations involved in rail accidents. We have published guidance to assist with using the Regulations.

The regulations came into force for mainland UK on 17 October 2005 and the RAIB became operational on that date. Operations were further extended to cover the Channel Tunnel from 31 January 2006.

EU legislation

Since 2004, the Railway Safety Directive (2004/49/EU) and its subsequent amendment in 2008 has created a European framework for safety management. The aim of this common approach was to ensure the development and improvement of safety and create a single market for European rail transport.

The Directive aims to provide a means for ensuring that serious railway accidents and incidents are independently investigated in a blame-free manner, with a published report which identifies causes and makes recommendations to improve the safety of the railway and prevent future accidents and incidents.

The Directive requires every member state to establish a national safety authority, which is the Office of Rail and Road in Great Britain, and a National Investigating Body (NIB) (the RAIB in the UK). The European Railway Agency, set up in 2004, helping rail organisations work together to produce a common framework for safety in Europe. This includes establishing a network of the member states’ NIB’s to share and promote best practices.

Each NIB is required to be entirely independent in its organisation, legal structure and decision-making from any other party or body. It must also be functionally independent from the safety authority and from any regulator of railways.

The Directive was transposed into UK legislation by the 2003 Act and the 2005 Regulations. We are currently working to revise and update the Regulations in the light of new legislation and eleven years’ operating experience.

Our priorities

Our priorities for 2016/2017 are to:

  • develop new and effective ways of communicating important safety information
  • explore different ways of engaging with the rail industry, being sensitive to its concerns while preserving our independence
  • continue to explore ways to reduce the average time taken to publish our reports, without compromising on quality.

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