SAFETY BY DESIGN
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.’”