Investing in the rail network: Managing safety


You will need to comply with general health and safety requirements applicable to all UK employers. In addition, many activities on the railway entail complying with specific regulatory obligations. In particular:

  • Anyone proposing to operate trains or trams must develop and operate a safety management system.  If the operation is on the mainline railway or any other system operating above 40kph (other than trams), the management system must be certified by ORR. We call this 'safety certification'.
  • Anyone proposing to manage infrastructure, including stations, must also develop and operate a safety management system. If the infrastructure is part of the mainline railway or any other system operating above 40kph (other than a tramway), the safety management system must be authorised by ORR. We call this 'safety authorisation'.
  • Anyone proposing to introduce a significant technical, operational or organisational change to the mainline railway must follow the EU common safety method on risk evaluation and assessment (CSM RA), which includes having your risk assessment validated by an independent assessment body. Changes of less significance or those which take place away from the mainline railway are not subject to the CSM RA, but you must still carry out and record a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.

ORR’s expectations for all railway scheme developers are that:

  • Excellence in the management of health and safety is achieved through the use of a highly reliable safety management system.
  • When changes or new projects are proposed, the principle of health and safety by design is applied, making sure that appropriate safety standards and good practice are considered as early as possible in project development. Competent application of the CSM RA will help you to do this. Identifying and addressing potential health and safety risks at design stage typically achieves the best practicable safety solution and avoids the unnecessary cost of late stage changes or retro-fitting in projects.

These expectations apply across the whole railway system including rolling stock, signalling and telecommunications, electrification, level crossings, stations and the equipment and systems that are part of all these areas of the railway.

Our high-level principles for railway health and safety are published.

Information on how to apply for safety certificates or authorisations is provided.

Our guidance on health and safety by design and the CSM RA is available .

When do I have to apply the Common Safety Method for Risk Assessment (CSM RA)?

The CSM RA applies when any technical, operational or organisation change is being proposed to the mainline railway system. It sets out criteria for deciding if a safety-related change is significant or not, defines a risk management process for assessing and controlling risk, and explains the requirements for independent validation of your assessment.

In short, a person making the change (called the “proposer” in the regulation) needs to firstly consider if a change has an impact on safety. If there is no impact on safety, the risk management process in the CSM RA need not be applied and the proposer must keep a record of how it arrived at its decision. If the change has an impact on safety the proposer must decide on whether it is significant or not by using criteria in the CSM RA. If the change is significant, the proposer must apply the full risk management process in the CSM RA including having their risk assessment validated by an accredited or recognised independent assessment body (ORR does not have this function). More information on CSM RA and the assessment bodies is available.

You may also apply the CSM RA voluntarily to any change, as a means of ensuring you carry out your duty to perform suitable and sufficient risk assessment.

Who requires safety authorisation or certification? Are there any exemptions?

The Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (ROGS) require that:

  • All transport undertakings and infrastructure managers must develop safety management systems that meet certain requirements. The safety management system should however be adapted to fit the size and nature of the business – for a smaller organisation a simpler safety management system should be more appropriate. A safety certificate or safety authorisation must be obtained from ORR before operations start. To obtain this, applicants need to describe to ORR how their safety management system allows them to run their transport system safely. Our assessment focuses on checking that safety management systems are effective and fit for the purpose they are being used for.
  • Anyone who places in service, or uses, a vehicle on the mainline railway must make sure that the vehicle has an “entity in charge of maintenance” (ECM) assigned to it. The ECM, who is often but not always, the transport undertaking who operates the vehicle, must be registered in the UK national vehicle register before the vehicle is placed in service or used. If the vehicle is a freight wagon, the ECM must be certified by an accredited certification body (NB not by ORR).

In all cases the key requirement of ROGS is that the duty holder has in place a management system. The requirements for mainline operators and ECMs are very specific and are set out in the schedules to the Regulations. For non-mainline operators the management system is expected to follow the same structure, but adapted to suit the nature, character and extent of the operation.

The law gives ORR four months to determine applications for certification or authorisation, starting from the date we are in receipt of all the relevant information. We recommend that applicants submit their applications to us six months before they need to have their certification in place, and advise you to engage us informally well ahead of then.

More information on safety management system requirements, applying for certificates or authorisations and meeting the ECM requirements can be found in our comprehensive guide to ROGS.

Do I require a revision to my ROGS Safety Certificate or ROGS Safety Authorisation?

If you, or the railway business you are working with, already holds a safety certificate or safety authorisation and makes a change, you will need to notify ORR only if the change represents a substantial or major difference to the arrangements set out in the application for the current certificate. We may choose to inspect or audit the arrangements for making the change but our approval is not required.

In cases where the change is to the type or extent of the operation (for example, converting from conventional to high speed operations or introducing a novel signalling system), you may be required to apply for an amended safety certificate or authorisation. This requires an application to ORR for our approval, but we will only examine the areas of the management system affected by the change.

More information is included in our guide to ROGS.