Rail (UK) - - Safety Special -

The sub­ject of safety by de­sign fre­quently comes up when Prosser talks about the fu­ture of safety on the rail­way. But what does it re­ally mean?

“I go back into my past a lit­tle bit when I think about safety by de­sign be­cause I spent a long time in the chem­i­cal phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sec­tor with ICI and it was some­thing that was ab­so­lutely drummed into us as young en­gi­neers and de­vel­op­ing through our early ca­reers that, when you look at do­ing safety de­sign work, you look at the haz­ards and you think about elim­i­na­tion.

“For ex­am­ple, one of the things we were al­ways taught was, if you don’t need a

piece of equip­ment, don’t put it in.”

How do you ap­ply that think­ing in rail­way terms?

“For one, it’s about how you de­sign sta­tions. Such as how you can en­cour­age peo­ple to use lifts by where you put them. The other im­por­tant area is main­tain­abil­ity. Good safety by de­sign is mak­ing it quick and easy to main­tain. Or not need­ing to main­tain it at all.”

HS2 is al­ready aim­ing not to have to main­tain the rail­way while trains are run­ning.

Prosser says the Ja­panese net­work is a good ex­am­ple of safety by de­sign. They de­sign their sys­tems so that the prob­a­bil­ity of them crash­ing is vir­tu­ally zero.

“On Shinkansen they’ve had zero fa­tal­i­ties.”

He says this is about taking the time to do the think­ing at the be­gin­ning, which in some cases comes down to the ORR’s in­flu­ence as a reg­u­la­tor.

“Where projects have run into trou­ble in re­cent years is of­ten where there has not been that time to do this think­ing up-front, and so you get cost and time over­runs.

“It’s not just good for safety - you’ll end up do­ing your project faster and cheaper. Do­ing that up-front think­ing about elim­i­nat­ing haz­ards, about how peo­ple are go­ing to work with the sys­tem and how you’re go­ing to main­tain it, gets you a bet­ter sys­tem.”

Prosser is quick to em­pha­sise that it is about whole-sys­tem rather than silo think­ing, which the Ja­panese ex­cel at.

“A rail­way is not about run­ning trains, it’s about mov­ing peo­ple and goods from ‘a to b’, and the Ja­panese be­lieve it is very cru­cial in the de­sign of sta­tions to get your trains on time within a few sec­onds. They don’t worry about plus or mi­nus ten min­utes, they’re wor­ried about plus or mi­nus ten sec­onds. Think­ing about how you de­sign the plat­forms and how you de­sign the station is re­ally crit­i­cal to achiev­ing that ob­jec­tive.

“Their ob­jec­tive is peo­ple mo­bil­ity. Mov­ing peo­ple. It’s not about run­ning a train, it’s think­ing ‘I’m in the mo­bil­ity busi­ness.’”

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