West Coast Railway Company prohibition lifted

The Office of Rail and Road has today (March 23) lifted the Prohibition Notice that was imposed on West Coast Railway Company (WCR) on February 17.

The notice, which had been in place for five weeks, prevented the operator from running any services on the main line, owing to the regulator’s concerns about WCR’s management of safety following a number of incidents over the past year.

ORR launched a review of WCR’s safety certification in December 2015, following a number of incidents over the course of the year. The first of these, on March 7 2015, involved steam locomotive 34067 Tangmere passing a signal at danger at Wootton Bassett Junction on the Great Western Main Line and overrunning by 689 metres. It straddled the junction around a minute after a First Great Western High Speed Train had passed through (RAIL 771-773).

Following this incident, ORR issued an Improvement Notice requiring WCR to strengthen its approach to safety management. However, safety issues continued.

Under the Prohibition Notice imposed in February, WCR was unable to operate any trains on the main line until the ORR was satisfied that its governance and operations meet industry practice and are fit for the scale of its operation. Actions required included: the introduction of clearer governance structures with proper accountability for safety; more robust risk assessments; and enhanced processes for managing staff, with a focus on safety culture.

The ORR says it has now received evidence of and assurances that steps have been taken to remedy the issues. A letter from WCR Chairman David Smith to the ORR in connection with the improvements and assurances can be viewed here.

“A decision to stop any train operator from running rail services is never taken lightly,” said ORR Director of Railway Safety and HM Chief Inspector of Railways Ian Prosser.

“I am satisfied that WCR has now taken all the necessary steps to address the issues of concern on safety, such that I am now able to lift the Prohibition.

“We shall continue to closely monitor WCR over the coming period to ensure that their approach is embedded into the culture of the company and that they fully comply with all the commitments they have made.

“Fit and proper safety management is one of the reasons we now enjoy the safest railway in Europe. ORR will never compromise on safety.”

ORR is separately prosecuting WCR in relation to the incident at Wootton Bassett in March 2015. The next hearing was due to take place on March 18, but has been adjourned and has now been scheduled for an unspecified date in May at Swindon Crown Court.

  • For more on this story see RAIL 798, on sale April 13.


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