Report 14/2015: Class investigation – protection irregularities

Class investigation into irregularities with protection arrangements for trackworkers during infrastructure engineering work.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has investigated a number of accidents involving track workers on Network Rail’s infrastructure and has identified track worker safety as an area of particular concern in recent annual reports.

RAIB has also become concerned at the number of operating irregularities associated with the protection of those carrying out engineering work, particularly where protection was planned to block the line to traffic. This is because, in different circumstances, these irregularities could have led to harmful, and possibly fatal, outcomes.

RAIB observed the regular occurrence of these operating irregularities in the daily incident reports produced by Network Rail’s National Operations Centre. As a result, it decided to collect information over a two-year period (April 2011 to April 2013) to understand more. This report describes analysis that the RAIB has carried out based on this information, and its investigation of the safety issues that this identified.

The data analysis showed that most of the reported operating irregularities were potentially harmful and that their occurrence was neither infrequent nor reducing. A systematic review of these was then undertaken to identify the various safety issues that would need to be addressed to prevent them occurring and leading to harm.

RAIB is aware that Network Rail is currently planning and implementing a major track safety initiative known as ‘Planning and Delivering Safe Work’ (PDSW). The investigation has sought to understand this and has established that Network Rail intends that PDSW will address a number of the safety issues identified.

However, RAIB has observed that the initiative is currently only in the early stages of implementation and that the envisaged benefits have yet to be demonstrated. It has also observed that the initiative is intentionally focused on the roles of those working on site. This means that it will not have significant benefits in areas where risks may be created by people in a number of other roles that are important in safeguarding those carrying out work on the railway.

RAIB has made two recommendations addressed to Network Rail. They are concerned with:

  • monitoring and verifying the benefits obtained from the PDSW initiative
  • developing an action plan to reduce the risks associated with railway roles that are outside the scope of the PDSW initiative.


Response to recommendations:

  • RAIB will periodically update the status of recommendations as reported to us by the relevant safety authority or public body
  • RAIB may add comment, particularly if we have concerns regarding these responses.

RAIB Recommendation response for possession irregularities

Published 20 August 2015