May 2012 in Network Rail and Suppliers
Drivers are provided with route knowledge training for the areas they have signed for. When machines are to be operated by Drivers in unfamiliar areas, requests are made to other companies to provide Route Conductors. Route Conductors provide guidance to Drivers about the appropriate speeds and signals in a given area. However, when Route Conductors are unavailable or cancel at short notice, Drivers are still being asked to operate the machines. This poses the risk of Drivers passing signals at danger, especially when machines are to be taken into Main Line possessions from stabling points.
Could Harsco and Balfour Beatty:
Response from Balfour Beatty Rail
Balfour Beatty Rail would like to thank the reporter for raising their concerns.
Although Balfour Beatty Rail does not operate Switch and Crossing (S&C) rail grinders we do operate a variety of other On-Track Machines (OTM).
A high degree of importance is attached to the process by which a Driver's route knowledge is acquired and maintained. For each Driver undertaking route learning duties, or requiring a refresher over a particular route, a specific plan is established. This will identify the section or sections of line to be learned or refreshed and will reflect a quantitative assessment of the number of trips necessary to learn the route. This should happen in accordance with the criteria and requirements set out in theRule Book module TW1 section 1.4.
These criteria and requirements provide the basis for the process by which Balfour Beatty Rail OTM Drivers attain and maintain essential knowledge of the routes over which they are required to drive OTMs on railway infrastructure.
A 'Record of Route Knowledge' is maintained for each Driver and this is reviewed by the planning department when allocating staff to machines. No Driver will at any time be asked to drive a machine on a normal open running line over a route for which they do not have the required route knowledge. If Balfour Beatty Rail are unable to roster a Driver with the required route knowledge a Conductor will be sourced to conduct the machine over the route.
There is, however, a distinction between route knowledge requirements for normal open line running and for movements within a possession. Balfour Beatty Rail has set out these requirements as below:
Route knowledge requirement for normal open line running
TW1 1.4of theRule Bookstates:
"Driver's responsibilities: When working a train you must:
This rule only applies to normal open line running and does not apply to T3 possessions.
Route Knowledge requirements for movements in a T3 possession
There is no requirement to have current, certified knowledge of the route within a T3 possession as the Driver may be asked to make movements, e.g. wrong direction, that would not be covered by route learning.
When a Balfour Beatty Rail OTM arrives at a signal protecting a T3 possession the Driver must gain authority from the Signaller to pass the signal at danger. After they have passed the signal the Driver will be working under the instructions of the Person In Charge Of Possession (PICOP) or Engineering Supervisor (ES) for all movements that are required in the T3 possession or work site. (Rule Book module T3, section 9).
The Driver must come to a clear understanding of any instructions given before any movement is made(Rule Book module T3, section 9, 9.2).On exiting the possession or work site, the Driver must have the required route knowledge from the protecting signal to the machine's destination.
Response from Harsco Rail
Harsco Rail would like to thank the reporter for raising their concerns.
Harsco Rail do not under any circumstances allow staff to drive routes without the appropriate route knowledge or Route Conductor. To do so would be a breach of our safety certificate and, therefore, theRailways and Other Guided transport Systems Safety Regulations (2006). Harsco Rail has on a number of occasions cancelled shifts due to a lack of route knowledge or Conductors, and will continue to do so when necessary.
Additionally, when in possessions, route knowledge is not required. It is common for a possession to be taken around our machine and stabling point therefore Route Conductors are not required.
To ensure Harsco rail processes are being implemented and are effective, we will be conducting a targeted audit focusing on work planning and staff rostering to ensure that the appropriate staff are allocated to the route and, where this is not possible, that a Route Conductor has been assigned. The results of this audit will be discussed at Safety Quality and Environment (SQE) Committee with the employee reps who can then feed this back to all staff.