HomePeopleHealth & SafetyA look at how ORR found Britain's railways to be among the...

A look at how ORR found Britain’s railways to be among the safest in Europe


ORR says our railways are among the safest in Europe.

This follows its first comprehensive, five-year assessment of safety on our networks, taking up a routine industry exercise usually conducted by a European body.

The baseline data for their finding comes from Common Safety Indicators (CSI) which help assess if railways comply with safety targets.

CSIs include significant accidents, fatalities and serious injuries, accident precursors and suicides. This common set of railway data is applied to six indicators during this study. Those are passengers, employees, level crossing users, others, trespassers, whole society (collective risk to all categories of persons above).

Prior to the UK leaving the EU, it was the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) who carried out this work and who do the same for the 25 member states.

Regardless of who is conducting the study, the assessment always takes into account five years, not just one. So this assessment for 2020 looks back to 2016.

Each category then gets a National Reference Value (NRV) and a Common Safety Target (CST) – meaning that the value must not exceed the target (the maximum tolerable level of risk).

For 2020, the observed safety performance for all categories passed the NRV and fell below the CST – except for the “others”, category which did not meet the NRV assessment criteria. However, at the next stage of the review it passed the tolerance of the five year moving average, which is 20%.

Safety was therefore considered acceptable.

Comparison with other countries

The report also compares the number of fatalities and weighted serious injuries (FWSI) in Great Britain against other European countries for each of the six risk categories.

For passenger safety risk, Great Britain ranks eighth (both per passenger train-km and passenger-km) compared with other European countries. Great Britain performs favourably in comparison to countries with similarly large railway networks

For employee safety risk, Great Britain is third compared with other European countries. The only countries with a lower average number of FWSI for employees were Ireland and Finland.

For level crossing user safety risk, Great Britain is third compared with other European countries. The only countries with a lower average number of FWSI for level crossing users were Ireland and Switzerland.

For trespasser safety risk, Great Britain is fourth compared with other European countries. The only countries with a lower number of FWSI for trespassers were Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia.

For whole society safety risk, Great Britain ranks first compared with other European countries. This means the average number of FWSI across each of the five risk categories combined is lower than any other European country for which there is available data.

Great Britain has the lowest average number of FWSI for whole society (all risk categories combined). Great Britain also ranks favourably compared to other European countries in terms of employee safety, level crossing user safety and trespasser safety.

ORR’s HM Chief Inspector of Railways, Ian Prosser CBE said:  “Britain continues to have one of the safest railways in Europe, and thankfully, incidents such as those that occurred at Carmont in August 2020 are very rare.

“Safety targets are imposed to ensure a minimum level of safety is achieved and it is important our railway continues to strive for better.”


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