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16 July: news in brief

ORR warns industry it must ‘refocus’ efforts on safety

THE Office of Rail and Road has warned that the rate of improvement in railway safety is showing signs of slowing down. In its Annual Report on Health & Safety, published today, it points to recent deaths of workers on the railway, including one last November and two more earlier this month, and also to the deaths of seven passengers who were trying to board or alight from trains. The ORR said this emphasised the need for the industry to improve its approach to ensuring vital work on the railway is planned and carried out safely. The need for a continuous focus on safety is also being reinforced by increasing pressure on the network, partly because of the introduction of hundreds of new trains and also because of various types of disruption, which place greater pressures on staff. ORR director of safety and chief inspector of railways Ian Prosser said: ‘We would like to extend our sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of Michael Lewis and Gareth Delbridge who lost their lives in the tragic incident near Port Talbot recently.  Our investigation is underway. Separately, based on evidence gathered from last year’s inspection programme, we have taken formal enforcement action to secure the wider national improvements needed to protect track workers.The fact that, despite this tragedy, Great Britain’s railway remains one of the safest in the world, is a tribute to the hard work, expertise and professionalism of tens of thousands of people employed across the industry. Nonetheless, we are facing significant challenges not least around new rolling stock, the platform-train interface and trespass, and the whole industry must work together to ensure that safety standards are not allowed to slip.’

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