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Rail: HSE to blame for a number of preventable railway collisions? - Allan Sefton, HSE's Director of Rail Safety responds

HM Railways Inspectorate
Deputy Director General : Justin McCracken


23 February 2004

Dear Sir,

In RAIL number 481 Nigel Harris has been a little more hysterical than usual in his campaign against HSE. He appeared to be saying that HSE was to blame for a number of preventable collisions. This is a very serious allegation and totally unfounded. His logic was though rather difficult to follow with HSE moving from 'dithering' to 'whipping the industry into a breakneck pace'. I am sure RAIL readers would prefer the facts so here are some:

It is important that all readers of RAIL know that I feel very privileged to be in this post. I lead a committed team of professionals. Their dedication and work to provide assurance to the workforce and the public that there is improving management of risk by the railway industry is substantial and unwavering.

It is worth remembering that RI was transferred into HSE in 1990 because of public concern that, despite the application of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act to the railway industry for 15 years, the improvement in safety performance was not what was being achieved in other industries. For example, throughout the Eighties, the number of railway workers killed each year never fell below 16 and was 22 in 1990. Last year this figure was 7 and it has been in single figures since 1993/4, although recent events show there is still much to do. Similarly, train collisions since 1990 have come down from 290 to 69 and derailments from 192 to 67. These improving trends represent a significant and welcome achievement.

HSC and HSE are proud of HMRI's contribution. So am I.

Yours faithfully

Allan Sefton
Director of Rail Safety

Updated 2013-01-23