RR421 - Organisational dynamics and safety culture in UK train operating companies

This research follows up recommendations contained in recent public inquiry reports into the major accident at Ladbroke Grove, and railway safety more generally, by investigating the nature of safety culture within Train Operating Companies (TOCs) in Great Britain. Specific objectives of the research were: to map the range and nature of internal and external factors impacting upon the priorities, safety attitudes, behaviour and decision making of operational staff within TOCs; and to provide a detailed insight into the ways in which staff interpret and react to the systems of reward and sanctions prevailing within the privatised railway sector.

A qualitative research strategy was adopted throughout the empirical research, with primary data being collected between May 2003 and April 2004. The work comprised two main phases. Firstly, 38 Top Tier interviews with senior representatives of stakeholder groups within the UK railway sector. Secondly, interviews and discussion groups with over 500 staff at all levels drawn from a sample of 4 different TOCs.

The research has produced a complex set of findings and insights regarding TOC safety culture, which are discussed in detail. The findings of the work will be of use for regulators and businesses across the rail sector as a whole.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2021-04-20