This year, 25 years after the Clapham disaster, the conference’s main theme was fatigue, one of the significant factors identified by Lord Hidden QC’s report into the crash.
To emphasise the importance of this issue the conference included a Fatigue Management Award which was won by Volker Fitzpatrick.
Keynote speaker, Kelvin Hopkins (pictured below), MP, vice chair of the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Rail Group acknowledged that the UK had one of the safest railways in Europe but was concerned that “we must recognise that fatigue causes injuries and deaths to workers and passengers on our railways”.
He knew that the rail unions felt that industry was not doing enough to manage fatigue but did acknowledge there was some good practice such as First ScotRail’s appointment of Fatigue Manager.
Not surprisingly, Mike Barraclough of the QBE Insurance Group considered fatigue from an insurer’s perspective. He also stressed the need to manage fatigue for which companies need specific arrangements and referred the conference to published ORR guidance available on the subject.
The aviation industry provided a case study on fatigue management as Easyjet’s Phil Barton described its Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS). Phil advised that in aviation, fatigue is generally controlled by prescriptive rules (CAP371).
However, in 2003 Easyjet found that, despite being compliant with CAP371, it had operational risks from fatigue. This led to a fundamental review of rostering and the creation of its FRMS which the Civil Aviation Authority then agreed could be used to manage crew rostering.
Phil explained how Easyjet’s FRMS adopts a more scientific approach to rostering which takes account of, for example, fleet base and schedule. It is backed up by Fatigue Awareness and Countermeasures Training and analysis of thousands of reports each year from crew who feel fatigued. Phil noted that although fatigue management is a complex soft issue requiring highly skilled support staff, its benefits are both reduced risk and increased operational flexibility.
Other presentations included those from Richard Price, ORR’s Chief Executive; Jill Collis, TfL (Transport for London’s) Director Health, Safety and Environment and Dr Pete Waterman.
Richard Price acknowledged the “enormous strides made by rail over the last 10 years” with the last fatal train accident being six years ago and noted that now the biggest risk to passengers was getting on and off trains.
He warned of the dangers of complacency and noted that track worker safety was still a big issue. He was convinced of the benefits of the ORR being both the economic and safety regulator and cited level crossing funding as an example.
Having listened to Network Rail’s proposals, the ORR has increased funds available for level crossing safety improvements. Richard noted this showed efficiency did not always mean spending less.
Jill Collis described the challenges of managing safety in an organisation faced by Londoner’s insatiable demand for tube travel. She described how TfL had streamlined its procedures and processes to make safety more intuitive and TfL’s focus on safety leadership.
Pete Waterman treated the conference to an inspiring presentation on HS2 and described his new role as part of a Government task force as: Seeing that every penny spent on HS2 gives us more value than we previously thought possible.
In his vision for HS2 Pete Waterman said, ‘It will suddenly change the map to give a railway that is interconnected in a way that our Victorian ancestors could never have imagined. The old railway companies did not want connectivity; they wanted people to travel on their lines. Well the map is to be changed to suit the population, not the railways.”
No doubt Pete’s task force will include the safety, environmental and reliability benefits from HS2’s 21st century infrastructure in their report.