Train protection systems


Train protection is equipment fitted to trains and the track that can reduce risks from signals passed at danger (SPADs) and over-speeding.

The Railway Safety Regulations 1999 (RSR99) prohibits the operation of a train on a railway unless a train protection system is in service in relation to both the train and railway.

Train protection systems act to prevent or mitigate the risk from a train movement exceeding safe limits. To achieve this, a train protection system automatically applies a train’s brakes should the train pass the limit of movement authority, such as approaching a signal at excessive speed or passing a signal at danger.  

RSR99 requires that duty holders ensure that one of two levels of train protection system is in place. At a minimum, duty holders must use the Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) which is capable of intervening and applying the train brakes. Where it is reasonably practicable to install it, the higher level of train protection system, known as Automatic Train Protection (ATP) is required. European Train Control Systems (ETCS) and Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) are types of ATP systems.  

ORR expects train operators and infrastructure controllers to plan upgrades to their train protection arrangements in line with this legal requirement and views the deployment of ATP systems as an important step to drive forward continuous improvement in risk management and to ensure safe operations.

We have recently published guidance which explains the application of RSR99 to train protection systems. The guidance provides clarity on the interpretation of RSR99 in relation to train protection systems, including how we expect duty holders to manage the migration towards ATP. The guidance also explains other legal requirements relevant to train protection systems, such as The Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (ROGS).