HomeEventsRail Safety Summit: Big character leadership

Rail Safety Summit: Big character leadership

Mature receptive leadership from the top by individuals with a presence and credibility is what our industry needs. Writes Colin Wheeler

Following the failed General Election in Italy and down- grading of this country’s credit rating, it seems a little odd to be writing about the expanding success of rail in Britain.

But Crossrail is progressing with Tunnel Boring Machines working flat out. High Speed 2 looks destined to happen at last; Network Rail’s project organisation is set to deliver its projects with the end in sight for Reading; and the proposed Control Period spend from 2014 is £37.5 billion.

Overdue is the investment now being made by ‘150 years young’ London Underground. Its 11 lines are being upgraded to provide a capacity increase of around 30%. David Waboso of London

Underground says they are engaged with a supply chain of 25,000 people and are spending £4 million every day (total £1.4 billion a year) on project works.

Safety and productivity should go hand in hand. Safety is too important to be delegated to support professionals, yet many seem to have learnt to say all the right things without convincing workers of their commitment. The debates about what constitutes a reportable accident damaged workers views of the sincerity of managers and supervisors. Now safety statistics have plateaued.

We need individuals with the stature of David Waboso to spend time on track and in depots talking to people and listening to concerns. Visits must be unannounced and unexpected. Before mobile phones etc. this was easily done.

Thirty years ago, one safety consultant convinced enlightened organisations that their chief executive and his board members needed to spend three days each week walking the job.

Campaigns heralding targets of zero and the publication of statistics are loved by safety specialists. But, if we are to improve our safety performance whilst expanding our railway, we need visible big character leadership.

Last year, I suggested that we needed to tackle the safety culture and leadership in our industry. I hope you will come and add your views to the Rail Media Safety Summit at Loughborough University on Thursday 14th March so that we can once again achieve a fatal accident free year!


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