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Driving safety improvements for all

Edinburgh Trams has been an early adopter of the new LRSSB risk management framework. Image courtesy of TAUT

Safety has always been an over-riding priority for operators of tramways and other light rail systems, but traditionally they’ve worked independently to develop their own risk management and mitigation policies.

However, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report into the November 2016 Sandilands accident recommended the formation of a new body to take responsibility for light rail safety in the UK. This included the development of a sector-wide approach which encompasses all aspects of incident reporting, risk modelling and the development of best practice.

In response, the sector came together to launch the Light Rail Safety and Standards Board in 2019, and since then huge strides have been made on the implementation of the RAIB’s recommendations and a wide range of other safety-related projects.

Most ambitious of all has been the creation of an integrated risk management framework. Building on work started by UKTram and existing best practice, the framework draws on the experience of safety professionals and is supported by specialist consultants and external agencies, including the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). It also incorporates a series of interconnected projects to deliver a framework that is already making a significant contribution to safety across the sector.

Figure 1. The key components of the new LRSSB-developed risk management framework. Chart courtesy of LRSSB

Key principles

The basis of the risk management process is a continuous cycle of improvement based upon the cornerstone philosophy of Plan, Do, Check, Act and As Low as Reasonably Practicable (ALARP), whilst considering the crucial components of risk:

  • Identification
  • Measurement
  • Assessment
  • Mitigation
  • Reporting
  • Communication
  • Monitoring
  • Improvement
  • Governance

In turn this provides a comprehensive, systematic and proactive approach from both an overall industry and individual organisational perspective. It aims to identify events and measure, prioritise, focus and respond to safety risks that challenge day-to-day operating practices, critical objectives, projects and initiatives throughout the sector.

The framework also incorporates key features of good practice in health and safety, in addition to providing an intuitive and robust platform to enhance safety culture, collaboration and innovation.

Reporting of incidents

As part of the over-arching strategy, one of the LRSSB’s key projects has been the development of the Tram Accident and Incident Reporting database (TAIR), an online reporting system aimed at enhancing safety.

As well as assisting the sector to share vital information, TAIR aims to standardise the way incidents are categorised and reported, helping to populate a comprehensive and robust model of potential hazards and risks that operators can use in improving their own safety processes.

Of course, any new system or process is only as good as its adoption, and UK networks are already embracing the platform as their primary database, or interfacing it with existing systems. The LRSSB continues to work with the ORR on its future utilisation as part of a continuous development programme.

Whilst all tramway and light rail systems have different challenges and potential hazards, the TAIR database enables them to add their own data to the platform and contribute to the most comprehensive risk management tool developed to date for the UK’s light rail sector.

While TAIR provides a means to standardise the way incidents are reported after the event, providing both a uniform process and crucial common ‘language’, prevention is always better than cure. So another key project for the LRSSB is helping to assess sector-wide risks.

Named after the shape of graphics to illustrate the processes involved, ‘Bowtie’ contains eight elements: hazards, top events, threats, consequences, preventive barriers, recovery barriers, escalation factors and escalation factor barriers (see Figure 1, above).

Although usually focused on major accidents, Bowties can also be utilised to assess less serious incidents. Overall, the main objective is to understand how such events may occur and the measures that can be deployed to prevent them.

Over the past year, the LRSSB has developed a new Bowtie database that will produce a suite of global risk assessments with collective input drawn from existing network risk profiles and assessments covering all aspects of tramway operations. As part of this process, it has also run a series of workshops to enable representatives from light rail systems to use the associated Bowtie XP software.

The resulting database will facilitate Bowtie’s assessments that can be specifically tailored to individual organisations as well as providing a broader sector perspective.

Risk management

To establish a systematic approach to risk and safety management, the LRSSB has also worked collaboratively with the ORR to integrate its Risk Management Maturity Model (RM3) into the light rail environment.

Originally developed for heavy rail, RM3 aims to provide an effective tool for assessing an organisation’s ability to successfully manage health and safety risks. It also provides a useful benchmark for year-on-year comparison and has now been adopted by the industry as the minimum standard by which safety management maturity levels are evaluated.

Going a stage further, the LRSSB has created a standardised software-based assessment/survey platform incorporating the full range of RM3 criteria integrated within the Risk Model and new Bowtie risk analysis systems. This integration provides a continual development cycle that progressively drives down industry risk to ALARP levels, enabling operators to undertake peer review and learn from each other.

Industry model

One of the most important elements of the Risk Management Systems Architecture is the development of an Industry Risk Model, in partnership with consultancy Atkins and UKTram.

Identifying common risk factors across all light rail systems in the UK, this provides a clear and measured understanding of individual network risk profiles, ensuring more control of emerging risks and precursors to incidents.

The model has been ‘flexed’ over the past year to take into account feedback from safety professionals across the sector, and the LRSSB is now set to embark on further iterations of both network and sector risk profiles.

Combined with other projects that make up the risk management framework, the model will provide another essential tool for the sector to use as it strives to improve what is already one of the safest modes of transport.

Clearly much work remains to be done, and we look forward to working with our members and partners such as the ORR on further refinement of the framework, and key elements with it, as the sector evolves and expands.

Article appeared originally in TAUT 1009 (January 2022)


About the author

Carl Williams has worked in public transport operations and maintenance for more than 25 years, holding management positions at Sheffield Supertram, Manchester Metrolink, Keolis UK and, most recently, West Midlands Metro.

Carl was also a project manager on the Nottingham Express Transit Phase 2 expansion programme and Managing Director of Transdev Edinburgh.

He was appointed CEO of the Light Rail Safety Standards Board in August 2020.