January 2010 in Network Rail and Suppliers
CIRAS has received a report about signallers on the Sheffield - Doncaster route not using the phonetic alphabet when communicating with drivers and/or shunters. Staff use the phonetic alphabet when communicating with signallers to ensure that they are in contact with the correct signal box. However, the reporter comments that recently this has become difficult as some signallers are not using the phonetic alphabet when responding.
As all staff on the railway have to go on a Network Rail communications course, to learn how to use the phonetic alphabet, the reporter feels its use is essential in avoiding an incident on the running line.
Could Network Rail re-brief all signallers in the area on the importance and necessity of using the phonetic alphabet?
Firstly Network Rail would like to thank the reporter for bringing their concerns to our attention.
Secondly, as an experienced and proud Network Rail manager responsible for the overall management of this issue, I would find myself hugely disappointed if the facts reported in this letter are found to be factual and referring to the signalling staff within Doncaster and Sheffield PSB.
The reasoning behind this bold and honest statement is that we,
as the operations team at Great Northern, strive daily to raise the
bar in every aspect of our respective roles. This includes the
standard of safety critical communications.
To this end I have listed below, recent evidence that we treat this issue with the utmost respect and importance I have listed below.
Approximately three months ago the HMRI took random downloads independently. These downloads were taken live. The lowest score received was a C which is a scored deemed acceptable by the current operations manual.
In Doncaster PSB for period 4 2009, 30 random downloads were taken: 26 scored C or above and the 4 that scored below the required standard resulted in informal meetings with the staff concerned. Action plans were developed to help the staff elevate their individual communication standard to an acceptable level. These are currently running.
Any individual scoring a C was spoken with on a one to one basis to highlight areas where the communication could be improved.
In period 5 2009, 27 random downloads were taken and all conversations scored C or above. No action plans were developed, although one to one feedback was given as required, in an effort to improve scores where needed.
Through local SWG (station working groups) and the LPG (local performance groups) the team also actively discuss SCC (safety critical communications) with our TOC and FOC customers alike whenever issues are highlighted.
Following receipt of this report we have downloaded 6 voice communications that involve signallers at Doncaster dealing with drivers carrying out shunt moves in and around the station, I can report all were found to be an acceptable standard and in all the cases the phonetic alphabet is used.
As the information provided is a little sparing, it is difficult to identify if this is the example the reporter is referring to.