The UK rail industry needs to focus on addressing climate change issues and improving worker health, according to the latest health and safety report from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). 

The regulatory body noted that while Network Rail has made progress in areas such as weather forecasting, the UK’s network manager needed to do more to drive change on issues such as the management of vegetation on buildings and structures. 

HM Chief Inspector of Railways Ian Prosser praised the country’s railway for performing as one of the safest in Europe amid weather extremes, financial challenges and industrial action. 

However, he also noted: “To keep it in that position, the industry must redouble its efforts of managing its assets and the environment around them because of the threat of extreme and variable weather conditions on the network.” 

Another concern raised in the report was the safety of track workers on the network, with the ORR expressing concern about the fatigue of workers in particular. However, the organisation also said it was encouraged by Network Rail’s own recognition of the problem. 

The ORR said that while it was intending to issue revised guidance around expectations for the management of fatigue, Network Rail also needed to fully implement its own revised new standard to address the risk of fatigue, which was “often implicated in a range of potentially catastrophic safety incidents”. 

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Additionally, Prosser raised the issue of access to toilet facilities, saying: “It is unacceptable that the industry fails to provide adequate toilet facilities for staff and indeed this is a legal requirement. 

“There is an opportunity for operators to provide shared access to their own facilities and go some way to meeting the human need and dignity requirements of the workforce.” 

One area of progress though was Network Rail’s progress in developing an occupational health services provision which will offer centralised services to the whole mainline railway for the first time. 

The ORR also praised the organisation’s work in improving its operational decision-making process and capability during extreme weather. 

Concern about the management of vegetation on structures matches a previous concern from the ORR about Network Rail’s backlog of structures requiring routine examinations, with the regulator previously writing to the body in May.