ORR takes next step to revoke WCR safety certificate

West Coast Railways has moved another significant step closer to losing its crucial Office of Rail and Road (ORR) safety certificate, without which it cannot operate any trains even if Network Rail reinstates its track access rights.

The ORR has issued, via its York office, formal consultation to all stakeholders seeking views on WCR’s potential expulsion from the network. This follows the serious SPAD (Signal Passed at Danger) at Wootton Bassett on March 7 - the most serious since 2010, and which has been ranked as 25 out of 28 on the industry’s hazard register.

A WCR excursion hauled by Bulleid ‘Battle of Britain’ 34067 Tangmere overran signal SN45 at danger, resulting in a high-speed near-miss with a First Great Western Swansea-Paddington express that had joined the same line via a converging junction track less than a minute earlier (RAIL 771).

On April 17, ORR started the ‘process of representation’ seeking “comments from any affected parties, who have 28 days to make representations”. That gives stakeholders until May 15 to comment on the points raised by ORR. The ORR deadline is the same day as NR’s suspension of WCR’s track access either expires or will be extended (unless it is revoked earlier).

Those invited to make representations include train operating companies, trade unions and freight operators, some of which had responded when representation was sought to grant WCR’s safety certificate in the first place.

The ORR letter states: “ORR has triggered its formal process to consider revocation of WCR’s safety certificate.

“In ORR’s opinion WCR is not meeting the requirements relating to the safety management system set out in regulation 5 (for main line duty holders) - . WCR’s operation appears to present significant risk to other operators on the UK railway network. WCR’s SMS itself is not able to ensure that services are being operated, designed or maintained safely.

“One or more of WCR’s parts of the safety management system is not able to ensure that the transport system is safe: for example, the recent serious incident involving a WCR train which passed SN45 signal on the Up Main Line at Wootton Bassett junction at red by approximately 700 yards.”

WCR was unavailable to comment.

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