Mainline - freight operating companies

Overview: we are generally satisfied that freight operators' safety management systems perform at consistently acceptable levels. There are some areas requiring improvement, particularly the rise in rolling stock axles and bearing failures. 

There were 14 freight train derailments, part of a growing trend. SPAD numbers involving freight operators have continued to increase since 2010-11. There were 72 freight operator SPADs in 2014-15, a 13% increase, of which 14 were potentially significant. The trend in SPADs per freight kilometre travelled has increased gradually since 2011. There was a 40% increase in harm to freight workers, with 11 major and 194 minor injuries.

Evidence: our work was focused on analysing the ability of freight operators to deliver excellence in driver management, but more specifically, in key areas of their management maturity in support of driver management techniques. We used RM3 to promote operators' systematic analysis of their management systems to help us identify areas of improvement as well as good practice. We also looked at governance, policy, leadership, securing co-operation, competence and the development of employees at all levels and the planning and implementing of risk controls through co-ordinated management arrangements.

We found that most freight operators consistently achieved level 3 'standardised' to level 4 'predictable' score when assessed with RM3. Some operators are now beginning to push towards level 5 'excellence' assessments for a few parts of the RM3 assessment criteria. Our RM3 assessment found that freight operators were generally complying with the Railway and Other Guided Transport System (ROGS pdf icon PDF, 795 Kb) Regulations . 

A series of freight container wagon derailments over the last few years were caused by interconnected common factors. Track condition (in particular track twist), a wagon's wheel/suspension-sensitivity to sub-optimal track geometry and the uneven loading of goods in freight containers causes 'wheel unloading'. This can cause wheel(s) to lose contact with the rail and lead to derailment. None of the incidents in 2014-15 caused catastrophic consequences but all had the potential. They caused damage to the infrastructure and vehicles, but no fatalities or injuries. Other notable incidents in 2014-15 included freight containers being blown off a wagon in high wind - an issue we are monitoring.

To accelerate industry dialogue to identify a system level solution, we held a seminar on 6 March 2015. It identified the fundamental collective leadership and thinking needed, including a rolling stock and track standards review. We continue to monitor progress closely. We continue to liaise with the industry at its national meetings, including the National Freight Safety Group and Rail Freight Operators Group.