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Improving safety in the UK’s rail depots

Improving safety in the UK’s rail depots

Rail Partners - Improving safety in the UK’s rail depots
26 April 2023
Claire Repeti, Operations Manager

Before working in rail, as a train commuter, the only concern I had for trains was whether they arrived on time and how I got from A to B promptly. Not once did I consider how a train worked or how it was serviced and maintained to keep it operating safely and reliably for the benefit of passengers.  
But after 20 years in the industry, I’ve come to appreciate the tremendous work that goes on behind the scenes before passengers embark on their journeys. 

Train depots 

There are almost 15,000 train carriages in the national passenger fleet that require regular inspections and maintenance at depots, which aren’t very visible to passengers but are absolutely critical to delivering a safe, reliable train service. No two depots are the same and, here in the UK, we have 77 depots comprising a real mix of new, old, large and small depots all designed to look after different types of rolling stock.  

Many depots are located in historic locations and crucially near good rail and road links to ensure easy access for maintenance support and transfers of carriages for servicing and cleaning. Security is also necessary at a depot site as there is a lot of expensive train equipment in place. 

A focus on safety 

Generally, depots have a strong safety record, but incidents do occur as depots can be quite hazardous environments with big trains and equipment moving around. Industry is continuously looking for ways to improve safety and protect our colleagues. 

In 2020, the Network Performance Board and Passenger Operators’ Safety Forum1 identified improvements were needed to protect rail workers. Thus, the Depot Working Group was born, initially led by the Rail Delivery Group and subsequently inherited by Rail Partners – with support from the Rail Safety and Standards Board to further improve depot safety levels. 

Depots of today and tomorrow 

This week (Thursday 27 April), Rail Partners is delighted to be hosting its inaugural depot conference – Depots of Today and Tomorrow on HMS Belfast in London. This is an opportune moment for industry to come together to promote better, safer and higher performing train depots. The day brings together speakers from across the sector and beyond and will give attendees the opportunity to discuss guidance and best practice.  

Sessions include learning lessons from the past, identifying what current high performing depots should look like, as well as a look to the future and how technology can help to make tomorrow’s depots more effective. I personally am looking forward to a robot being on site!   

We’ve also got colleagues from HS2 lined up to tell us about their plans for the next generation of depots and the Great British Railways Transition Team will be providing an insight into the long term role of depots.  And, to make sure rail benefits from experience from other sectors, we will be hearing how the bus industry is making better use of technology and data to drive up safety. It's going to be a great day for colleagues from operators, suppliers and rolling stock leasing companies to get together to share experiences and focus on improving depot safety and efficiency.  Rail Partners intends to follow up the conference with other events, workshops and webinars to keep the discussion going and ensure depot workers continue to benefit from a safe working environment. 


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