Inquiry will examine who is responsible for travel safety

12.00 | 28 February 2014 | | 6 comments

The newly formed Transport Safety Commission is calling for evidence to guide its first inquiry under the banner “UK Travel Safety: Who is Responsible?”

The Transport Safety Commission comprises 16 members drawn from the UK Parliament and from the air, rail and road safety professions and related sectors.

In October 2008, the House of Commons Transport Select Committee called for the establishment of ‘an authoritative and independent road safety commission’. The Government did not take up the recommendation, but PACTS took up the challenge and announced the formation of the Commission in March 2013.

The Commission’s first inquiry will set out to examine the legal framework and institutional responsibilities for transport safety, looking at international good practice, to assess if lessons identified can be transferred from one mode to another.

Since most UK transport deaths and injuries occur on the road network, recommendations are expected to focus on the institutional arrangements for road safety. The Commission may consider implications for rail and air safety in its inquiry.

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP, co-chair of the Commission, said: “To reduce the toll of death and injury on our roads, it is vital to have clear lines of responsibility and effective institutional arrangements. 

“The Transport Safety Commission combines Parliamentarians and independent transport safety experts. This inquiry will raise the profile of transport safety at Westminster as we all start to think about the priorities for future government.”

Professor Stephen Glaister, the Commission’s other co-chair, said: “This is an opportunity for a long-overdue, independent review of how we manage transport safety. 

“Whilst we can be proud of past improvements there remain many opportunities to avoid serious injuries and deaths. We should not presume that our safety laws and institutions cannot be improved and we must recognise the new difficulties stemming from the financial stringency faced by many public bodies.

“I hope we will be able to make acceptable and affordable recommendations that will save lives.”

Click here for guidelines on submitting written evidence, the deadline for which is 15 April.

The Commission will also invite selected individuals and organisations to give oral evidence, and intends to report by the end of the year.

For more information contact either Stephen Glaister (RAC Foundation) on 020 7747 3485 or David Davies (PACTS) on 020 7222 7732.


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    For those commentators that suggest that “no more can be done” I would refer them to local highway authority performance tables (link at bottom.). There are huge variances in performance for similar road networks. This may indicate that institutional reasons are at play?


    pete, liverpool
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    Interesting to see that the commission has been set up to determine who is responsible for travel safety and not who is responsible for accidents, crashes, latent errors and systematic failures in transport system design etc, etc. To make an enquiry about the latter items would certainly shake things up a bit and I for one would love to give evidence to the commission.

    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
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    Considering just road safety, from the authorities point of view, the ALARP philosophy makes sense when you consider the very low ratio of number of accidents to the number of vehicles and miles travelled. There is, after all, a limit to what the authorities can do – whether it’s the DfT or an ad hoc commission – and they may one day say “we can do no more – it’s now down to the individual to take control of their own personal road safety”, which really is what it’s all about anyway.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    I certainly welcome the setting up of this commission. And the first question to be addressed does seem key to the whole debate on transport safety.

    Rod King, 20’s Plenty for Us
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    I’m sorry but I thought that in this country, safety is based on a philosophy of ALARP, not always reducing loss until it reaches zero. Also, whilst reduced, there is still transport by water. Why is this not in the commission’s remit? All this was covered in the specialist area of Transport of Hazardous Substances by HSC in 89/92 reports.

    Martin Elliott, Surrey
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    Can anyone else cut through the political good intentions sound bites and work out what this group is and what power they have? The suggestion is that it might be part of PACTS, the road safety political pressure group, rather than a government body. I thought that the DfT was supposed to be responsible for road safety policy so is the formation of this group an acknowledgement that the DfT is not performing their job to the standards expected?

    A truly independent, competent and honest “Transport Safety Commission” is sorely needed but the group must live up to their name if it is to produce any benefit worth setting them up in the first place. I look forward to more detail and wish them all the best.

    Dave Finney, Slough
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