Carnforth steam train operator banned from railway

The Jacobite steam train
The Jacobite steam train
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A Carnforth based steam train operator has been banned from running its heritage rail services on the UK’s mainline railway.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has today issued a Prohibition Notice to West Coast Railway Company Ltd (WCRC) preventing it running its heritage rail services - which include The Dalesman and The Jacobite – on the mainline railway.

The Notice relates to concerns about WCRC’s management of safety, following a number of incidents over the past year.

ORR launched a review of WCRC’s safety certification in December 2015.

This followed a number of incidents in 2015.

Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways at ORR said the company had not appreciated the seriousness of the incidents.

Mr Prosser said: “A decision to stop a train operator from running rail services is not taken lightly.

“However, my concerns about West Coast Railway Company’s lack of appreciation of the seriousness of a collective range of incidents over the last year, coupled with ORR’s concerns on the company’s governance, regrettably make this prohibition necessary.

“These failings create a significant risk to operations on the mainline network.

“We want to encourage successful business operations on our railways and hope WCRC will be able to put in place steps to ensure fit and proper safety management with a view to resuming operations.

“Our inspectors stand ready to work with the company to support and advise as it strengthens its approach to safety.”

No-one from WCRC was immediately available for comment.

The first incident, in March 2015, involved a steam locomotive operated by WCRC passing a signal at danger at Wootton Bassett junction, Wiltshire.

The train came to a stop across the busy junction on the Great Western main line, avoiding collision with an express train by less than a minute.

Following this, ORR issued an Improvement Notice requiring WCRC to strengthen its approach to safety management. However, safety issues continued.

ORR considers WCRC continues to present a safety risk, hence we are issuing a Prohibition Notice.

Under the terms of the Notice, the company will not be able to operate trains on the mainline network until the ORR is satisfied its governance and operations meet industry practice and are fit for the scale of its operation.

Steps the company must take include: the introduction of clearer governance structures with proper accountability for safety; more robust risk assessments; and enhanced processes for managing staff with a focus on safety culture.