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.

Our inspectors are experienced rail or investigation specialists. We train the team in rail disciplines and investigative techniques. With the administration staff, our team totals 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.

We are not a prosecuting body and do not apportion blame or liability. Our investigations are focused solely on improving safety and breaches of legislation are dealt with by other organisations; usually the police and safety authorities, none of their statutory duties have been changed by the creation of the RAIB.

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 risks which may lead to a similar accident or make an accident worse and making recommendations to prevent reoccurrence

  • increasing awareness of how railway accidents happen

  • co-operating with other investigation organisations nationally and internationally to share and encourage good practice

Where appropriate, we will publish the results of our investigations as a report or bulletin.

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) enabled the Secretary of State to establish the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB). We have published guidance to assist with using the act.

The Railways (Accident Investigation and Reporting) Regulations 2005 (SI1992)(the 2005 Regulations) explain the RAIB’s powers and 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

In 2004, the Railway Safety Directive (RSD) (2004/49/EU) created a European framework for safety including maintaining of safety management systems (SMS). An amendment in 2008 included heritage railways. The aim of a common approach was to create a single market for European rail transport. The RSD applies to all railways in the member states, including metros, trams, light rail systems and heritage railways, (unless explicitly excluded by that state’s own legislation).

The Directive required every member state to establish a national safety authority the Office of Rail and Road in the UK, and a National Investigating Body (NIB)(the RAIB in the UK). The European Railway Agency (ERA), set up in 2004, aims to facilitate the rail organisations working 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.

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

The NIB investigates all serious railway accidents, as defined by the Directive, and where necessary, any other similar accidents with an obvious impact on the regulation or management of safety. The Directive aims to provide a means for ensuring that serious railway accidents and incidents are independently investigated in a blame-free manner, and a report is published which identifies causes and recommendations to improve safety of the railway and prevent future accidents and incidents. The RSD sets out the requirement for the establishment and operation of the NIB. The RSD is transposed into UK legislation by virtue of the 2003 Act and the 2005 Regulations.

Our priorities

From 2015 to 2016 our priorities will be to:

  • make sure accidents are investigated independently and thoroughly
  • give practical recommendations to improve the safety of everyone who comes into contact with rail transport.

Board of Transport Accident Investigators

In 2003, the Secretary of State announced the setting up of a Board of Transport Accident Investigators (Hansard 1 May 2003 Column 19WS), consisting of the three Chief Inspectors of accident investigation (Rail, Marine and Air). It is currently chaired by the Chief Inspector of RAIB.

The Board meets to identify and develop common strategic issues to improve independent accident investigation in the UK. It provides a facility for managing any common risks or opportunities, optimising co-operation between the Branches and for peer review - making best use of the professional experience and expertise.

This allows the Chief Inspectors to maintain operational independence and reporting of safety matters to the Secretary of State while benefiting from the branches working together.

Accident Investigation Branch Joint Initiatives

The three Branches, have agreed the following joint initiatives:

  • continue to develop common processes and practices for accident investigation

  • share technical facilities, equipment and expertise where appropriate in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness

  • use and continue to develop joint accident investigation training for new and established inspectors

  • share resources and expertise in staff recruitment, career progression and personal development and where appropriate specialists in investigations.

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