May 2012 in Train Operations
Response from Northern Rail
Northern has introduced a coupled working in the north east which operates on a morning peak service from Hexham into Newcastle in connection with the provision of additional capacity under the Government's HLOS strategy. This coupled working normally comprises two trains without end gangways. A short walkway adjacent to the turnaround siding was therefore constructed by Network Rail to facilitate the turnaround of the empty stock for this coupled working. This enables Drivers to climb out of the cab of one train and into the cab of the adjacent coupled train.
Northern carried out a risk assessment of this method of changing ends. This included involving the local Health and Safety Representative. This local risk assessment only considered issues which were outside the generic risk assessment which is in place for Drivers, and a safe method of work was agreed.
There are numerous examples around the network where Drivers are required to get on or off trains without specific, local lighting. Drivers are issued with torches to cater for this situation. There are no local or specific circumstances at Hexham which are any different to this, and we could see no justification for providing localised lighting. The fitment of specific local lighting would not be a reasonably practicable control measure. Adequate lighting to perform the task is provided by the vehicle lights supplemented by the Driver's torch.
The walkway has been constructed with a non-slip surface and no issues were experienced with ice during the recent cold spell. We have, however, said that this will be monitored, Driver feedback obtained, and the situation will be kept under review. If a problem emerges, we will consider additional control measures.
It is correct that the local Safety Representative has not formally signed off the risk assessment, although it was agreed on the day. In the meantime, the Full Time Officer has accepted that the method of work is fit for purpose and the train has now been working with no problems experienced.