Conference speaker will make the case for independent accident investigation

12.00 | 22 June 2017 | | 6 comments

The latest confirmed speaker for the 2017 National Road Safety Conference will suggest that lessons learnt from rail accident investigation could inform those tasked with reducing collisions and casualties on the UK’s roads.

The 2017 National Road Safety Conference is being held in Manchester on 14-15 November. Around 180 people have already registered to attend and 14 organisations have booked to participate in the accompanying exhibition.

Simon French, chief inspector at the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) will use his presentation to draw comparisons between accident investigation in rail and road, and will discuss how the principles of independent railway accident investigation might be applied to the road sector.

He delivered a similar presentation at a Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) conference in March 2017. PACTS used the conference to launch its call for the Government to create a UK Road Collision Investigation Branch to boost efforts to reduce the number of road collisions and casualties.

At the PACTS conference Simon French told delegates ‘there must be more that can be done (to improve) investigation into road collisions’.

He went on to explain that with all accident investigation branch investigations, ‘the purpose is limited to the improvement of safety – no blame is attributed and issues of liability are never considered’.

Simon French joined the railway industry in 1982. He held several operational posts in British Rail and worked on number of major railway projects including the Channel Tunnel and Heathrow Express.

In 2004 he joined the newly formed Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), the independent body tasked with the investigation of railway accidents in the UK.

After six years as deputy, in 2015 he was appointed to the role of chief inspector. As chief inspector he is responsible for the overall management of the RAIB and ensuring it fulfils its primary aim of improving safety on Britain’s railways.

National Road Safety Conference 2017
The conference is being held at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester Airport on 14-15 November and is co-sponsored by Colas, Jenoptik Traffic Solutions UK and Insure The Box.

The main conference agenda includes sessions focusing on public health and active travel, the use of behavioural change techniques (BCTs) in road safety interventions and driverless cars. There will also be a ‘Topical Topics’ session and the ever-popular Question Time, as well as a ‘Fringe’ programme which will run alongside the main agenda.

Click here to register to attend; click here for more information about exhibiting; or for more information contact Sally Bartrum (delegate registration and exhibition) or Nick Rawlings (speakers and agenda) on 01379 650112.


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    Typically there are roughly seven hundred or so rail incidents/collisions in the UK per year, each of which, I presume, is thoroughly investigated, whereas there are roughly seven hundred thousand road traffic collisions in the UK per year. Anyone spot the slight logistical problem in having all the latter investigated?

    Incidentally, I have a problem with ‘the purpose is limited to the improvement of safety – no blame is attributed and issues of liability are never considered’. You can’t improve safety unless you know what mistakes are being made and by whom and I would expect the police to have established that, as best they can, at the outset. If it’s all with a view to vehicle occupant and pedestrian safety, I believe the vehicle designers and manufacturers do that already with the aid of bodies like TRL and government legislation.

    Another tier of road accident investigation, seems a like another way of putting off actually having to do something! Whatever the cost of an AIB, why not give it to the police instead, for more enforcement now?

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Never stop learning! There is a lot we still need to find out (and with greater accuracy) about road collision causation and how to reduce casualties. Police investigations, STATS19 and ad hoc studies are not enough. See recent PACTS’ Seizing the Opportunities report.

    The UK’s casualty reduction progress over recent years has been poor, both by our own and by European standards.

    Simon French spoke very persuasively at the PACTS conference.

    Go and hear him and discuss it at the RSGB conference.

    David Davies, London
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    In my experience, it’s the rail industry that could learn from the road safety engineer – but I found enormous resistance to that from the former HMRI. The rail industry NEEDS RAIB, but the need for a Road Accident Investigation Branch is questionable. What exactly do these pundits think it would do that isn’t already being done?

    Andrew Fraser, STIRLING
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    Because rail and aviation travel is necessarily heavily regulated with high professional standards and training for those with the responsibility for their safe operation, rail and air crashes are not expected and are fortunately rare which is why there is rightly an investigation by specialists to ascertain why these crashes – which shouldn’t have happened – did happen.

    Road travel on the other hand is regulated up to a point, with rules for the wheeled road users who are not necessarily minded to comply with them, nor with the sense of responsibility and concern for safety of others that would be instilled in rail and air operators. Consequently, road crashes are expected, are not rare and are not difficult to investigate and does not require another agency or tier, to establish what may already be known.

    It’s the difference in standard of care by their respective operators, between the two forms of transport, that makes one safer than the other.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    I dont believe that is always the case Hugh. Human nature and that of institutions being what they are one authority may believe that a circumstance may come under there umbrella or that of another.

    The cause of an accident and death due to an incident is a police matter and reports are aimed for the coroners court. There may be no mention of a problem or other contributory factor that should be followed up by other parties in it at all.

    In my experience I have found very little co operation and correspondence between the police service and the local authorities. Both seem to do there own thing irrespective of each other unless there is a major incident which has a policy laid down and as such they are obliged to work together in some degree of unison.

    Bob Craven Lancs
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Is there much left to find out about traffic collisions anyway?

    Isn’t the reason there is a Rail Accident Investigation Branch due to the fact that investigating infrequent rail crashes is clearly beyond the scope of the council and the police, whilst road collisions are happening everyday and are adequately looked into by the councils and police with a view to collision reduction.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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