January 2010 in Network Rail and Suppliers
Two reporters are concerned about the lack of notice given to drivers about emergency speed restrictions (ESRs).
The Rule Bookrequirement has been recently changed, and emergency speed restrictions that are only in place for a short time no longer need to be communicated to drivers. One reporter cites the following information provided in a traction bulletin at work:
"A recent amendment to the Rule Book module SP has withdrawn the requirement for Network Rail to issue a special notice advising of emergency speed restrictions that will be in place for a short time. These notices will no longer be published in late notice cases."
Both reporters feel that this change could have very serious consequences, as vital, safety critical information is not being communicated.
One reporter gives the specific example of Shalford Junction, where an emergency speed restriction of 20mph was put in place. For the previous six weeks the line speed had been 40mph. The only notice that drivers received about the change was a reminder board just outside Guildford, but this didn‟t state the change in line speed. Unless a driver actually brought a train into Guildford, this would not even be seen. The reporter states that there is a risk of derailment if a driver is not aware of such a change. If the drop in speed is greater, say from 60mph to 20mph, and is not communicated there is an even greater risk.
This exact scenario was experienced by the second reporter who came from Guilford to Aldershot station and continued North. At Aldershot station there was a reminder board at the end of the platform, which did not indicate the speed. The driver had received no information of the speed restriction imposed on that line. The driver later found out that the speed board was placed on the south side of Aldershot and only trains coming from Farnham would see it.
The usual speed restrictions on the piece of track concerned are 50 mph through a tunnel and then 70 mph after the tunnel. After the tunnel there is a bend in the tracks and here the driver was confronted with a 20 mph speed board. The train was going at more than 50 mph and the driver had to brake sharply. Even though the driver was aware that a speed restriction was coming up, he was alarmed to see that it was as severe as 20 mph. The reporter states that it is very difficult to reach the correct speed in time in such circumstances and if the speed restrictions are due to damaged tracks, there is a real potential for derailment.
The first reporter states that anywhere where you can sign on and not know what the speed restriction is further down the line is dangerous. Both reporters would like to see all emergency speed restrictions published in the late notices as they used to be. The second reporter feels that speed boards should be displayed at the end of platforms, so that no drivers risk not seeing a speed board because they come in to a station from a certain direction.
Please could the RSSB specify why there is not longer a requirement to communicate information about emergency speed restrictions on late notice boards? What was the rationale behind the change?
Has Network Rail reviewed the way emergency speed boards are positioned since the Rule Book was changed and drivers no longer receive notification of emergency speed restrictions? Will Network Rail consider displaying emergency speed boards at the end of platforms so that drivers are aware of the exact speed restriction?
Network Rail would like to thank the reporter for raising the above concern regarding communication of ESRs. Safety is a highly important issue for Network Rail.
Has Network Rail reviewed the way emergency speed boards are positioned since the Rule Book was changed and drivers no longer receive notification of emergency speed restrictions?
The Rule Book change to the requirement to issue a special notice advising train operators of an Emergency Speed Restriction, (ESR), was withdrawn in June 2008, as the result of a change proposal submitted to the Rail Safety Standards Board (RSSB) by a Train Operator. Emergency Indicators and additional portable AWS magnets are provided on all the approaches to an ESR. These provide drivers with a visual, and audible, warning when approaching an ESR.
Will Network Rail consider displaying emergency speed boards at the end of platforms so that drivers are aware of the exact speed restriction?
A review of these rules have taken place and amendments to Rule Book, module SP will be published in the December AM module (issue 9). We would also like to remind readers that, where drivers may experience confusion with the position of the ESR boards, they should stop their train and communicate with the controlling signaller to make certain of a clear understanding of the speed restriction required.
The RSSB proposed changes to lineside signs which were agreed by the relevant Standards Committees. These new lineside repeating warning board (R Board) will show the actual speed a driver must travel at over the restriction. The new lineside signs have been included in Rule Book module SP - they will be published in October in Module AM and will be in force from the first Saturday in December 2009.