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Proposed guidance for SV on Heritage Railways

Signalling on heritage railways

Proposed guidance for SV on Heritage Railways

Unread postby TGD » Wed Jul 30, 2008 8:04 pm

In case anyone has missed it, proposed guidance on SV in Heritage is up on the ORR website today, see:

http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/373.pdf

No doubt will be of interest to some on here as an example of a signaling "case study" is included. Accordingto the blurb on the Nav page consultaiotn on the documentis open until 5th September, see:

http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/nav.00100v006


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Unread postby dvaro » Mon Aug 4, 2008 12:00 pm

This looks to be a sound document. The only surprise I had was annexe 3 para 25 which appears to mandate the use of IRSE accredited staff to carry out design and installation. However, by its own admission, the document is only a guide so as I see it any one with demonstrable competence will be equally acceptable

All that remains now is for the the heritage movement to grasp the opportunities offered..................
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Unread postby JRB » Mon Aug 4, 2008 12:56 pm

dvaro wrote: The only surprise I had was annexe 3 para 25 which appears to mandate the use of IRSE accredited staff to carry out design and installation. However, by its own admission, the document is only a guide so as I see it any one with demonstrable competence will be equally acceptable the the heritage movement to grasp the opportunities offered.
How else do you demonstrate it? Suggestions?
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Unread postby dvaro » Mon Aug 4, 2008 6:23 pm

The IRSE licensing scheme is only a method of demonstrating competence. Any method which can equally demonstrate competence is equally valid, as the ORR says in it's own guidance note http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/sf-dev-staff.pdf
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Unread postby JRB » Mon Aug 4, 2008 8:39 pm

dvaro wrote:The IRSE licensing scheme is only a method of demonstrating competence. Any method which can equally demonstrate competence is equally valid, as the ORR says in it's own guidance note http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/sf-dev-staff.pdf
We had already got that far. The question is what valid alternatives are there? The demonstration must presumably have to be VERY convincing.
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Unread postby Steve » Tue Aug 5, 2008 9:22 pm

This site is signalling based, so it’s not surprising that the debate here is focussing on S&T. But the subject of heritage railway demonstration of competence surely spans right across the board. The operating departments (drivers, guards, signalmen….) have long had systems in place (terms used were “training”, “examination” and “inspection” before “competence” and “assessment” became the buzz words). Most heritage railways operate such systems purely internally, don’t they? So why are we hearing arguments that this isn’t good enough specifically in S&T and that there external accreditation is required?

OK, so S&T departments may be small (compared to operations). This may make formal training etc. difficult because the “critical mass” where this machinery becomes supportable is not reached. But that’s a practical issue for HOW we train and learn, not one of principle with regard to internal or external recognition of competence. Actually that smallness should simplify some things, because all staff are likely to be well known to managers who will have a good idea of their capabilities.

The recent draft guidance appears to further this discrepancy across disciplines. It proposes (in an example) IRSE accreditation being required for ALL conducting an S&T installation (not even just the lead engineer, or the ICP). Yet I see no such specific proposal of one compulsory external accreditation for PW, T&RS or civil engineers or for operators. (Of course within the SV scheme a railway draws up for a project it will need to ensure competence in each role, and a range of professional memberships will no doubt be considered as one part of any individual’s qualifications.)

Who is driving this apparent discrimination against S&T, and why? Are we inadvertently fuelling it because we are ahead in the debate? Are we? If taken through to its logical conclusion, surely most people already working in heritage S&T will be unable to continue to do so for lack of an IRSE piece of paper. If the work is to be done, others will then have to be brought in at prohibitive expense even though they may actually have LESS experience on heritage railways, but do have IRSE licences they are able to obtain/maintain through work on altogether different technology in their day jobs.

Much more could be said (or has been) on the competence issue but that’s got its own thread and this one is specifically about the proposed SV guidance.

What do others think about the level at which the threshold for compulsory ICP appointment and safety verification has been set in this guidance? The novelty and risk tests in the main text seem well explained and sensible, but in the examples (page 29) provision of track circuits is given as something which would require independent SV. This implies quite a low threshold, doesn’t it?

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Unread postby JRB » Tue Aug 5, 2008 10:14 pm

A lot of heritage S&T workers have obtained IRSE certification without too much hassle & it inevitably stands up to scrutiny. The other disciplines don't (mostly) have a nationally recognised standard and their courses of instruction and examinations may not be percieved as adequate. A few of them certainly are not. Perhaps we are the lucky ones.
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Unread postby TGD » Wed Aug 6, 2008 8:05 am

Lets put cat amongst pigeons properly here. :twisted: How many safety advisors on Heritage railways hold a Nebosh diploma and are IOSH members? (I do tho I don't do voluntary safety work in Heritage any more, too much hassle and liability as I work in the safety field as a practitioner).

As I have said before- the question of competence is wider and the attempts of some of us to offer a constructive solution have been rebuffed (by certain parts of the industry that is, not IRSE).

Perhaps the spec of IRSE is a recognition of the professionalism of S&T and the existing standards as much as anything else, and the existance of one national certifying body?

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Last edited by TGD on Wed Aug 6, 2008 6:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby JRB » Wed Aug 6, 2008 10:36 am

It is largely a matter of worms. Are they better in their cans or out?
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Unread postby TGD » Wed Aug 6, 2008 2:41 pm

JRB wrote:It is largely a matter of worms. Are they better in their cans or out?


Depends whether you want to sort the tangled mess out or not I s'pose. Speaking personally, I've never had much luck at such sort out with the worms still in the can and the lid on there :wink:

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Unread postby ferroequine » Wed Aug 6, 2008 6:51 pm

JRB wrote:It is largely a matter of worms. Are they better in their cans or out?



It might also depend on what it says on the can - and whether the contents really do meet that spec. I suspect that might not always be the case judging by some of the things we know and hear about the 'heritage' (awful word) sector of the railway industry.
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Unread postby Steve » Thu Aug 7, 2008 5:58 pm

I'm intrigued by JRB's assertion that "A lot of heritage S&T workers have obtained IRSE certification without too much hassle.....".

If that's so, some sort of presentation from the IRSE on just how easy it is for volunteers in heritage railways to obtain accreditation would be welcome and might ease the concerns expressed.

I can see that in a large heritage railway (the top 10?) with a significant contingent of current NR/contractor employees, and perhaps even with some paid S&T employees of its own, it might not be too difficult.

But my understanding (happy to be corrected) was that the IRSE scheme requires trainers, mentors, and assessors to all be current licence holders before such a scheme can even get started. Then the syllabuses were centrally defined requiring training on specific kit a railway may not possess or have in service. Cost has also been mentioned. A small 100% volunteer heritage line (or other "minor" railway such as in a park etc.) is going to find this impossible even if it has experienced retired or ex-industry (and therefore ex-licence) people on board.

Dvaro has previously given an example of an alternative competence assurance system. It (or an adaptation to suit local circumstances) seems rather more practical, and adequately compliant, but would not meet the "IRSE only" requirement in the example in the proposed guidance.

I should say I do not for one minute argue against IRSE involving itself in the heritage signalling area; on the contrary I would welcome it and indeed I pay hard earned monies to be an Associate of that august body. Placing an effective compulsion (OK, I know its ONLY guidance...) on the ROGS duty holders, and consequently excluding potential participants in heritage S&T and/or making projects impossible is the area of my concern.

Incidentally I think someone should comment on the various remarks about just how bad some heritage lines are..... No doubt those making such comments have seen something which justifies their statements. But it's also true IMHO that there are a lot of people in heritage railways of all shapes and sizes who have a very professional attitude to running and advancing their railway safely, and it would be good to support them in achieving their aims rather than tarring them with what may be quite a small, if dirty, brush. (Climbs down off soapbox.)

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Unread postby JRB » Thu Aug 7, 2008 8:10 pm

Steve wrote:If that's so, some sort of presentation from the IRSE on just how easy it is for volunteers in heritage railways to obtain accreditation would be welcome and might ease the concerns expressed.


Incidentally I think someone should comment on the various remarks about just how bad some heritage lines are..... No doubt those making such comments have seen something which justifies their statements. But it's also true IMHO that there are a lot of people in heritage railways of all shapes and sizes who have a very professional attitude to running and advancing their railway safely, and it would be good to support them in achieving their aims rather than tarring them with what may be quite a small, if dirty, brush. (Climbs down off soapbox.)

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The IRSE presentation was given last year or thereabouts at Kidderminster. Sponsorship eliminated any charge for the meeting or the lunch. It was well attended from many heritage lines. Where were you?

Letting worms out of a can is not always straightforward. An S&T friend of mine left the ********** railway many years ago because he did not wish to be associated with their unsafe practices but did not feel able to make a formal report to HMRI. That particular railway seems to have reformed nowadays. Lots of other tales, supported and alleged filter through, but how bad do they have to be and how much documentary or photographic evidence is needed to go public and lose friends? Safety is paramount, but...................................
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Unread postby TGD » Thu Aug 7, 2008 8:55 pm

JRB wrote:
Letting worms out of a can is not always straightforward. An S&T friend of mine left the ********** railway many years ago because he did not wish to be associated with their unsafe practices but did not feel able to make a formal report to HMRI. That particular railway seems to have reformed nowadays. Lots of other tales, supported and alleged filter through, but how bad do they have to be and how much documentary or photographic evidence is needed to go public and lose friends? Safety is paramount, but...................................


In the code of conduct of the professional society I belong to and from where I hold my Chartered status, if I know about unsafe practises and have done my utmost to resolve internally and there is no change, I have an obligation to take the matter further up the tree and, as a last resort, on to the relevant enforcement agency if necessary- walking away would not be deemed sufficient to dicharge my professional obligations. Not to discharge such obligations would be deemed professional misconduct. Even so, to make such report to HMRI (whether in confidence or openly) is never an easy task- as some of us know to our cost. I, and others, have been there- and accepted the consequences. In all of the cases I am aware of, investigation proved concerns were wholly founded, and unsafe practises- some very serious- were brought to an end as a consequence. But I am very aware that others have not been able to take that step.

The thing is tho, if no-one has the courage to lift the lids of the tins and deal with the contents, whither we go? If you look at the history of rail (and other) accidents usually it transpires that if those who knew had spoken out and been taken heed of, the resulting accident would likely have not happened. In the rail sector we are fortunate that HMRI do tend to take heed and respond positively and constructively to such reports and do protect the identity of those making such in confidence; yet equally, coming from a background in other high-hazard industry I am still surprised at the reluctance to raise these issues amongst rail staff- even where passenger safety is at issue.

JMO though. Like I say, I do not originally come from a rail background, so my experience/perspective is a little different on such issues.

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Unread postby Steve » Thu Aug 7, 2008 10:02 pm

JRB: "The IRSE presentation was given last year or thereabouts at Kidderminster. Sponsorship eliminated any charge for the meeting or the lunch. It was well attended from many heritage lines. Where were you?"

Indeed. I was there. Saw dvaro's presentation mentioned earlier. Funny though how we all take away different things. I don't remember any of the presentations arguing it was a straightforward matter for volunteers on smaller lines to obtain IRSE licences. Perhaps I missed that bit? Rather, I recall a couple of speakers either suggesting an alternative route to demonstration of competence or that there was a syllabus mismatch between the present IRSE licence grades and the knowledge needed/held on their railway. Another argued reasonably that holding a licence was a good way of demonstrating competence in signalling generally and was equally applicable in heritage, but I don't recall anyone identifying a simple structure for obtaining such exclusively as a volunteer within that field.

The fact that the event took place at all is of course much to the credit of the IRSE. If a repeat or similar event were to take place I am sure it would be well supported.

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