ORR lifts Prohibition Notice on West Coast Railways


ORR launched a review of WCRC’s safety certification in December 2015. This followed a number of incidents in 2015. The first of these, in March, involved a steam locomotive operated by WCRC passing a signal at danger at Wootton Bassett junction, Wiltshire. The train came to a stop across the busy junction on the Great Western main line, avoiding collision with an express train by less than a minute.

Under the terms of the Prohibition, the company was unable to operate trains on the main line network until ORR was satisfied its governance and operations meet industry practice and are fit for the scale of its operation.

ORR demanded, and we have now received evidence of, assurances that steps have been taken to remedy the issues we identified.  These 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.

ORR Director of Railway Safety and HM Chief Inspector of Railways, Ian Prosser said:

A decision to stop any train operator from running rail services is never taken lightly.  I am satisfied that WCRC 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 WCRC 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.

Notes to editors

  1. A letter received by the ORR from David Smith, Chairman of WCRC, can be read at: https://orr.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/21256/west-coast-railways-letter-of-intent-2016-03-22.pdf.
  2. The Office of Rail and Road is the UK’s rail regulator and strategic roads monitor for England.
  3. Follow us @railandroad.
  4. The original Prohibition Notice can be found at: https://orr.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/20848/2016-02-17-decision-letter-to-west-coast-railway.pdf.
  5. ORR is prosecuting WCRC and a train driver after a steam locomotive passed a signal at danger near Wootton Bassett junction on 7 March 2015. At the first hearing at Swindon Magistrates’ Court, no pleas were entered. The next hearing has been scheduled for an unspecified date in May at Swindon Crown Court.