Looking Ahead to Rail Safety Week

In this week’s blog GCRE Director of Rail Operations, Lee Paxton, looks ahead to Rail Safety Week beginning on 26th June.

One of the most important industry events taking place later this month is Rail Safety Week.

Organised by Rail Forum, the week will be a chance to take part in a series of important and engaging activities centred around the most important issue for all of us working in rail – the safe operation of the rail network.

As Rail Forum quite rightly state, ‘Safety Affects Us All’ and so the week has four main aims:

  • To raise the profile of, and shine a spotlight on, the importance of safety across the UK rail industry; for our people, our passengers and customers and the wider public
  • To work collaboratively with as many organisations as possible to successfully deliver Rail Safety Week
  • To bring the industry together delivering the same message across a dedicated week
  • And to prevent accidents, fatalities, and deaths in and around the rail infrastructure, in rail premises and in all rail related workplaces

For everyone working at the Global Centre of Rail Excellence, safety is our absolute number one priority. Starting with the very construction of the site itself and then on into operation, everything we do at the GCRE site is rooted in making not just our own facility safe, but in making a positive contribution to ensuring the wider rail network is as safe as it can be – for passengers, for the public and for every member of staff for which we have a duty of care.

Safety is in the DNA of the industry.

The UK rail network is amongst one of the safest anywhere in the world, but we can never be complacent. The lessons of disasters such as Hatfield can never be forgotten or downplayed. One fatality – however that occurs and wherever that occurs – on our network is one too many and so its important that we use weeks like the one we have coming up between 26th June and 2nd July to take stock of where we are in terms of safety in UK rail and think carefully about what can be improved at all levels of the industry.

For GCRE the week will be an especially important one, precisely because as a site for innovation and for testing new technologies and processes, we well placed to make a constructive contribution to the debate about how safety in our industry is strengthened even further in the coming years.

Importantly, GCRE can be the catalyst for a creative conversation about how partners work together to think through the development of new standards across the industry. The Rail Safety Week motto is ‘Building Safety Together’ and that’s exactly the kind of collaborative approach we need to take when it comes to developing standards for the future.

The recently published Network Rail Strategic Business Plan outlines its safety ambition in CP7 as one to get ‘everyone home safe, everyday’. For Network Rail safety is the very highest priority and it has rightly committed to making the best use of technology to reduce safety risk and continuing to invest in level crossings safety; suicide and trespass prevention, security, as well as trackworker safety. These are areas where we believe GCRE can help – enhancing standards to be the very highest they can be, but also being innovative in the designs and new approaches we take.

One of the challenges that we all have to think through is how to enhance safety on the network in a sustainable way. In its business plan, Network Rail sets out its aim to reform technical standards and an ambition in CP7 to, ‘reduce the complexity of standards that may add unnecessary cost to running the railway…’.

That’s the right focus to have and exactly one that will benefit from a collective approach by partners, including RSSB, train operating companies, the supply chain and other regulators. Where that thinking happens – and where new ideas are tested and thought through – is something that GCRE wants to make a positive contribution to supporting.

As a purpose-built, £400m site that will become Europe’s premier facility for rail innovation, GCRE is well placed to work with Network Rail and others to play a leadership role in the UK rail industry, helping developing the vision, ideas and standards that can accelerate rail innovation and enhance rail safety at the same time.

That’s the message we will be taking into Rail Safety Week and we’re encouraging as many people as possible to take part.

More information on Rail Safety Week can be found at www.railsafetyweek.org

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