The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has published its annual report covering the period 1 January to 31 December 2019. In addition, a new series of summary documents are also published for the first time which highlight some important safety learning from six types of railway incident that make up 40% of all RAIB investigations.

2019 operational activity

During 2019, 391 notifications were received by the RAIB, which led to the Branch carrying out 51 preliminary examinations of evidence to determine the most appropriate response. Out of these preliminary examinations 23 led to investigations which will be published in the form of a detailed report or safety digest. Also during 2019, RAIB published 17 full investigation reports, 10 safety digests, one interim report and one urgent safety advice. RAIB made 57 safety recommendations during 2019, these seek to reduce the chance of a similar accident recurring or to manage the consequences were such an event to happen again.

Simon French, Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents, said: ‘Sadly, 2019 saw a significant number of investigations involving one or more fatalities. During the year we published four reports relating to fatal accidents – three members of the public and one member of staff – and we are currently investigating four staff fatalities. Our thoughts are with those who have lost their loved ones. As investigators, we are only too aware of the terrible harm caused to families and friends by each of these sudden and unexpected deaths. Our job is to do all we can to explain the sequence of events that led to this loss, to analyse the causes and to make recommendations to prevent a recurrence.’

Summary of learning documents

To coincide with the release of the Annual Report, RAIB has also launched a new type of publication which draws on data from RAIB’s archive of investigations in order to highlight important safety learning of continued concern.

Simon French continues: ‘Since becoming operational in 2005, RAIB has published details of 447 investigations. These describe accidents and incidents of many different types, which have occurred across the whole spectrum of the railway and tramway industry, and throughout the UK. However, it is six categories of event, which together make up around 40% of RAIB investigations, which are the focus of the first series of key learning documents. We believe the industry still needs to do more to fully address the factors we have highlighted.’

The six learning documents cover:

  1. The design and operation of user worked level crossings and in particular how to manage the interface between road vehicle users and the railway
  2. The protection of track workers from moving trains
  3. The management of risk at the platform-train interface, in particular incidents in which people are trapped in train or tram doors and dragged along the platform
  4. The safe management of abnormal train-operating events which put passengers and crews at risk such as trains becoming stranded between stations
  5. Freight train derailments
  6. The safe design, operation and maintenance of on-track plant and trolleys