Search this site
Delude Retreat Indemnify Prevaricate Squander

Big news

It’s been a month for big news - well, huge news actually. The bottom fell out of the world’s financial system; pension funds took a hit as share prices nose-dived; stagnation consumed the housing market; redundancies hit the headlines as the ‘real’ economy quaked.

Thankfully, the immunised world of railway safety sidestepped this turmoil. Not content with injecting mind-boggling quantities of taxpayers’ cash into banks, the government kindly pumped an extra £15million into RSSB’s coffers for ‘strategic research’. It’s intended to support the DfT’s ‘Rail Technical Strategy’ which, in turn, sits alongside its 2007 white paper ‘Delivering a Sustainable Railway’. In this context, ‘sustainable’ is a euphemism for ‘cheap’.

Director of Policy, Research and Risk, Anson Jack announced that “RSSB… welcomes this vote of confidence”. No doubt, passengers on its gravy train do too.

So, over the next five-and-a-half years, we can look forward to some mind-boggling issues being tackled. If, as a condition of travel, passengers were compelled to wear Quallofil Parkas, could the heating be turned down in Standard Class? Should young offenders be harnessed to haul freight trains?
Should young offenders be harnessed to haul freight trains?

RSSB is clearly gearing itself up for boom times ahead - evidence Issue 116 of its never-to-be-missed ‘Information Bulletin’, a title which plays fast and loose with the word ‘information’. Under the glorious headline ‘managing standards to deliver co-operation at interfaces’, the lead story charts the appointment of three new staff members including one with an uncanny resemblance to the late Dame Hilda Bracket.

Page 3 goes some way to exposing the real value of RSSB’s research output. A project to map GPS coverage (the engine behind SatNav) across the network has delivered some truly revelatory findings - it doesn’t work in tunnels whilst cuttings and heavily built-up areas can also weaken performance. Perhaps I could earn a few grand by revealing that it’s dark at night.

Whilst researching GPS coverage, RSSB's gravy train discovers a tunnel at the end of this light.

Before heading for the shredder, readers really mustn’t miss the table of RSSB’s forthcoming events. The highlight is undoubtedly March’s 3rd International Conference on Rail Human Factors in Lille (please don’t all rush at once for tickets) which follows hot on the heels of the VT/SIC Seminar and a ‘Freedom to Train’ workshop.

Some smaller independent trainers have suffered a torrid time since Network Rail brought maintenance in-house, stealing a considerable slice of the market. Things have begun to perk up lately, a trend further fuelled by the introduction of a new competence, the Hand Trolley Controller (HTC).

From New Year’s Eve 2009, those tasked with managing the use and movement of trolleys will have been brought fully under Sentinel’s umbrella. The intention is that HTCs will take charge of the loading, transportation and off-tracking of all trolleys, although they can be assisted by others without the qualification.

Over the next 14 months, each relevant COSS and their manager (or an approved trainer/assessor) must complete a performance report, confirming evidence of safe trolley usage. They’ll also be given a keypoint card to throw on the fire at home. 1st January 2009 will see a new course launched for COSSs who have not previously taken charge of a trolley. Recertification will be required after two years. A logbook will be used to record HTC experience - the competence will lapse if the candidate doesn’t have any within a 12 month period.

Trolleys can pose a high risk if not managed effectively - a reality laid bare in June when a train collided with one at Acton West Junction. Taking the issue seriously is a welcome development but it’s legitimate to ask whether COSSs can properly digest yet more training fodder, particularly when they are already being force-fed high-fat modules on Electrical Permits and Effective Briefings.

The latter - NR tells us - is going down a storm, according to two surveys. The first revealed that 79% of COSSs attending the Effective Briefings course found it ‘useful’ whilst the other discovered that 60% of those questioned had noticed an improvement in COSS briefing standards. That said, one person in three had forgotten much of the imparted information by the end of their shift.

Always read the health warning before swallowing such surveys. There’s a tendency to tell your inquisitor what you think they want to hear - it makes for an easier life. Although my own experience of this course was not overwhelming, I’m happy to accept that it’s one more step in a positive direction. Those who view it as a distraction from the problem’s root causes (unrealistic expectations and information overload) will await more robust evidence before offering their endorsement.

Story added 1st November 2008
Page Top

Front Page | Safety Valve | Jungle Ron | Newshound | Red Tape | On The Line
Four by Three | Forgotten Relics of an Enterprising Age | God's Own County | Image Library

© Four by Three 2014