Britain’s railways are the safest of the top 10 biggest railways in the EU, according to the Annual Health and Safety Report published by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB).
The industry body’s findings show that safety on Britain’s railways is still higher than most, though it is highlighted that key risks must be addressed if this status is to endure.
The Annual Health and Safety Report revealed that using trains is one of the safest forms of transport in Britain; using a car is 26 times more risky, while for bikes and motorcycles, the threat to health and safety is even more pronounced.
In 2018-19, almost 1.8 billion passenger journeys were made, with 1.4 fatalities per billion train kilometres recorded. This is well down on the number of fatalities per billion train kilometres in Spain (89.2), Germany (11.4), France (7.2), and the overall EU average of 24.2.
Within the Annual Health and Safety Report for Britain’s railways, the data shows that it has been “an unprecedented” 12 years since the last train accident in Britain that resulted in fatalities to passengers or the workforce – a far cry from the tragedies often seen in the 1980s and 1990s.
However, the RSSB’s report also revealed that key risks that caused accidents in previous decades also exist today. Therefore, issues such as fatigue, management of change and signals passed at danger all need to be addressed.
Indeed, the number of signals passed at danger in 2018-19 rose to more than 300, and overall risk is increasing.
A survey of the workforce also revealed that more than a fifth have felt excessive levels of sleepiness, leading to fatigue.
The RSSB’s Director of System Safety and Health commented: “As an industry, it’s critical that we don’t lose sight of the overall positive big picture provided in the Annual Health and Safety Report 2018/19 but we must also continue to focus on those areas of risk that require more proactive attention.
“We can’t lose sight of the importance of essential health and safety management in the new five-year control period. Especially in an ear of major structural and organisational change.”