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Financial Times, 'Railways win fight over safety' - Bill Callaghan - Chairman, HSC - responds

The Editor
Financial Times
1 Southwark Bridge
London SE1 9HL

27 April 2004

Sir,

The article 'Railways win fight over safety' on 27 April suggesting that rail safety regulation looks "certain" to be removed from HSE must have seemed like manna to the rail industry. They would love to choose their own safety regulator rather than the independent HSE. It is now clear that the major drivers of cost escalation in the rail industry are poor scoping and management of projects and a lack of basic cost controls. I take great exception to the industry blaming the HSE for this situation.

The Health and Safety at Work Act is widely acknowledged to be one of the major reforms of the 20th Century. Its enforcement by HSE is proportionate and sensible, and certainly does not require safety at any cost. Independent research has shown that the majority of UK employers consider that health and safety requirements benefit their company as a whole, save money in the long-term and do not hamper their business.

Three years ago the Government accepted Lord Cullen's conclusions, after his Ladbroke Rail Inquiry, which emphasised that safety and economic regulation should be clearly distinct and performed by different bodies, particularly to give public confidence in the safety regulator's independence. Cullen also confirmed that HSE should continue to fulfil the function of rail safety regulator. There are significant shortcomings in any of the alternative regulatory structures now being proposed by the rail industry, such as the CAA model.

The Commission's advice is clear. There is no evidence to suggest that a move of HM Railway Inspectorate to the ORR or the Department for Transport would maintain or improve safety: it would be more likely to stall much needed reform and entirely miss the underlying causes of the industry's problems.

Yours faithfully,

BILL CALLAGHAN
Chair, Health & Safety Commission

Updated 2013-01-23