A new approach to railway operations

RSSB is undertaking a major national project in which the mainline railway’s operational rules are being reviewed, with the aim of improving business performance

Under the leadership of RSSB the industry is embarking on an ambitious project to transform the content and presentation of the rules currently published in the Rule Book (GE/RT8000). The project is entitled the ‘New Approach’ and the programme to systematically review and revise all modules that make up the current version of the Rule Book is scheduled to take four years.

Evolving rules
Rules have been used to help control operational risk on the railway for over 170 years. During this time the rules have evolved gradually as we have learned lessons from accidents and our understanding of risk has developed. The New Approach represents the next major evolution in the history of the Rule Book and is the biggest comprehensive review of the rules since the current Modular Rule Book was introduced in 2003.

The current Modular Rule Book was the culmination of a six-year project to make the Rule Book easier to navigate and the rules more accessible. This involved a complete rewrite of the 13 Personalised Rule Books and significant changes to structure, format and language.

Although the current Modular Rule Book improved upon its predecessor the experience of using it has highlighted opportunities for improving the document and a need for the rules to align more closely with the many technological and organisational changes the industry has experienced since its introduction.  

Review aims
The New Approach will deliver direct benefits, which include:
• Improved safety. This will result from fewer, clearer rules, targeted at specific groups of workers and presented in the most appropriate format – so that the opportunity for misunderstanding or lapses is reduced
• Opportunities for front-line users to exercise greater judgment in resolving operational issues, leading to better resilience and also improving safety
• More efficient training of operational staff (including reducing driver training)
• Fewer changes to the rules and more efficient delivery of change
• More efficient printing and publication.

Crucially, the New Approach will enable major improvements in the way the railway works.

It is an essential tool that – along with other initiatives – will help the industry to achieve large increases in performance, capacity, revenues, and modal shift. The New Approach will provide vital support to initiatives such as the Network Availability Programme and Network Rail’s Access Programme, resulting in:
• Increasing capacity by enabling the railway to be open consistently to train operations for longer periods especially in late evenings and at weekends
• Maximising the amount of engineering work that can be carried out during infrastructure down time
• Championing performance improvements by enabling innovation and 21st century operating practices.
Each of these ‘enabling’ benefits is discussed below. Changing the Rule Book through the New Approach does not directly deliver all of these benefits itself but they cannot be delivered without it.  

Increased performance

The Network Availability Programme is a Network Rail led industry initiative to provide greater access to the network to run revenue earning train services. To achieve this Network Rail intends to radically change its practices for maintenance and renewal of its assets. The aim is to create more train paths, especially at evening and weekends, to enable more train services and so more revenue to operating companies.  

Achieving these benefits requires the implementation through the New Approach of new methods of undertaking engineering work. The aim will be to:
• Enable trains to run later and start earlier in the day and increase availability at weekends
• Allow more work to be carried out in the interval between trains without causing disruption to services, resulting in a reduced number of disruptive possessions
• Allow the lines adjacent to engineering work to be open, with trains operating at or near normal speed.

Maximising engineering work

To obtain maximum benefit and revenue from the network it is necessary both to provide fully functional infrastructure on which to operate services for as long as possible at full line speed and capacity, and to provide access to the infrastructure to maintain and improve it. The New Approach is needed to deliver these twin goals.

Working with Network Rail’s Access Programme in their redesign of engineering processes, the New Approach will lead to more useful work time and so to fewer possessions and less disruption to train services, lowering costs for the industry as a whole. And by improving the access to the infrastructure, Network Rail will be able to introduce maintenance regimes that drive down the rate of asset failure leading to a more reliable network.

End user engagement
The project is also taking a new approach to the way in which it engages stakeholders to participate in the development of rules. In a significant departure from previous major Rule Book change projects it is intended that end users of the rules should have an opportunity to contribute to the creation of revised rules and rules based processes before final drafts are circulated for general stakeholder consultation.

This engagement process will primarily take the form of a series of end user workshops arranged at various locations around the UK where sample groups of end users will get the chance to see rules at an early stage in their development. At these workshops end users will be invited to express their views about which features of the New Approach they find helpful, which elements are difficult to understand or unhelpful, and which aspects of the current Modular Rule Book they would wish to see discarded or perpetuated.

The primary purpose behind engaging end users in this way, and at a much earlier stage than would normally be the case, is to validate whether the first products of the New Approach are consistent with its stated principles from an end user perspective. It is also recognised that traditional stakeholder consultation methods do not always reliably engage end users due to constraints of time and limitations in the consultation cascade within duty holder organisations.

Governance & delivery
The New Approach is being managed by RSSB under cross-industry governance. Proposed changes to the Rule Book are reviewed in detail and authorised by the Traffic Operation and Management Standards Committee (TOM SC). The programme is funded from the RSSB budget, which is financed by its members in accordance with the RSSB constitution agreement through an annual levy on each member.

The Rule Book is a large document, and in order to make the implementation of the New Approach manageable it has been necessary to divide it into 12 “tranches”. Progress to date is as follows:
Tranche 1 of the New Approach, which concerns basic competency for going on the railway, was published on 3 April 2010 and came into force on 5 June 2010. Good feedback has been received from front line employees.

Tranche 2 ‘people who set up safe systems of work on the railway’ was introduced on 4 December 2010. Informal feedback to date has been positive.

Following approval by TOM SC in December 2010, Tranche 3 ‘people who set up possessions and control rail movements’ will be introduced in June 2011.  

Work is progressing on Tranches 4 to 8, in line with the plan.

For more information:
If you have a question related to the New Approach to the Rule Book, you should contact the RSSB enquiry desk who will deal with your enquiry in liaison with operations specialists within the Traffic Operation and Management Delivery Unit. The RSSB enquiry desk can be contacted on:
Tel: 020 31425400
E-mail: enquirydesk@rssb.co.uk
Web: www.rssb.co.uk

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