Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Second Report


II. THE SAFETY TEST

16. London Underground Limited has a better safety track record than any comparable metro system around the world. The last major train collision occurred 27 years ago.[27] The Underground continues to seek improvements in safety performance as required under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.[28] The Railway Safety Regulations 2000 require anyone providing railway infrastructure or operating train services to prepare and submit to the Health and Safety Executive a Safety Case that sets out safety policy and objectives, a risk assessment, risk control measures and safety management systems.[29] Any proposed major operational change requires the Safety Case holder to submit a new case for examination to the Health and Safety Executive. The Safety Case holder for the Underground system is London Underground Limited. Under the PPP contract, each Infrastructure company will also have its own Safety Case, which will have to demonstrate compliance with London Underground Limited's Safety Case and all relevant safety legislation.[30]

PPP Safety Case

                

17. Table 1 sets out the progress towards developing a Safety Case suitable for managing safety under the PPP contracts.

Table 1

LONDON UNDERGROUND SAFETY CASE TIMETABLE

Safety Case Version

Dates Effective From

Comments

2.0

September 1999

Safety Case reflecting the PPP structure of 3 Infracos and 1 operating company all under public sector control.

2.5

April 2000

Further development of PPP structure with the Infracos adopted as subsidiary companies of London Underground Limited and the inclusion of non-statutory safety cases for the Infracos.

3.0

February 2002

Improvement to Version 2.5 of the Safety Case in preparation for transfer of the Infracos to the private sector.

3.1

Start of PPP

Modification of Version 3.0 of the contracts to reflect the change of the Infracos to private sector companies under the PPP.

The Health and Safety Executive approved Version 2.5 on the understanding that "significant progress and improvement would need to be made by London Underground Limited and its infrastructure companies before the next version, Version 3.0, was accepted".[31] During this inquiry, the Health and Safety Executive approved Version 3.0 of the London Underground Limited Safety Case, stating that "London Underground Limited has provided convincing evidence to the Health and Safety Executive as the independent safety regulator that it is able properly to assess and control the risks that are likely to arise from its modernisation plans for the Tube network".[32] Version 3.0 will become operational on 4 February 2002.[33]

18. On 19 December 2001, London Underground Limited submitted a further Safety Case to the Health and Safety Executive, Version 3.1, which specifically addresses issues related to the transfer of the infrastructure companies into the private sector. The PPP contracts cannot commence until Version 3.1 of the Safety Case is approved.[34] The Health and Safety Executive anticipated that Version 3.1 could be approved by 8 March 2002 to meet London Underground's provisional timetable for agreeing the PPP deal by 1 April 2002,[35] although it told us that it would extend this timetable if necessary.[36] The approval of Version 3.1 forms the basis of the Government's "safety test" for the PPP.

The Safety Case in practice

19. The key issue surrounding the safe operation of the Underground network is not whether a clear, theoretical system exists for managing safety but whether such a system can be made to work in practice.[37] Transport for London believes that the management arrangements for the PPP are so complex that they will jeopardise safety.[38] The trade unions agreed, suggesting that the complex contractual management regimes would blur the lines of responsibility and accountability.[39] The trade unions highlighted a number of instances in which Safety Case Version 2.5 was not being implemented on the ground and described the Safety Case as "a glorified paper chase."[40] The trade unions have also written to the Health and Safety Executive to inform them of the lack of consultation that has been undertaken in the process of developing Version 3.0.[41]

20. The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for assessing both the development and the implementation of the Safety Case. It told us that to date, most of its work has been "looking at the systems and whether they are capable in principle of delivering".[42] The Health and Safety Executive told us that some aspects of the implementation of a Safety Case can be examined prior to it becoming operational,[43] and that it would consider the representations of both Transport for London and the trade unions in examining the implementation of the Safety Case.[44] The Health and Safety Executive has set aside resources to understand how well Version 3.0 of the Safety Case will work on the ground, which it believes is "fundamental"[45] before a new Safety Case can be approved for the PPP operational structure.

21. Evaluation of the practical implementation of Version 3.0 will be undertaken in parallel with the assessment of the new Safety Case. The month which has been set aside to monitor the implementation of Version 3.0 contrasts with almost two years between the change from Version 2.5 to Version 3.0. The Health and Safety Executive did not envisage that Version 3.1 would be significantly different from Version 3.0 and would therefore not require as long to assess as the change between Versions 2.5 and 3.0.[46]

Safety and the PPP contracts

22. We were concerned to ensure that in developing the PPP performance regime, sufficient account had been taken of the imbalance between performance bonuses and penalties for safety breaches found on the mainline railway. That imbalance was criticised by Lord Cullen in his investigation into the Ladbroke Grove railway crash.[47] Transport for London expressed concerns that such an imbalance exists.[48] The Associated Society of Locomotive Eengineers and Firemen (ASLEF) told the Sub-Committee that the PPP consortia will have factored the possibility of safety-related fines into their bids.[49] London Underground Limited disagreed that there would be a conflict between good performance and good safety, and stressed that the PPP was developed to ensure that the contractual and safety regimes work together to improve the safety performance of the network.[50] Both Metronet and Tube Lines told us that they were committed to the safety of the travelling public.[51] If an Infraco does not fix a safety breach identified by London Underground Limited then London Underground Limited may step in and complete the works, the costs of which will subsequently be charged to the Infracos.[52]

23. The Health and Safety Executive has accepted the findings of the Cullen inquiry in full and has taken legal advice on whether any of the commercial aspects of the PPP contract might interfere with safety control at an early stage in the contract development process.[53] The Health and Safety Executive has not, however, conducted any further analysis of such effects despite the significant changes to the contracts. It confirmed that a further analysis would be undertaken upon receiving the final contracts.[54] On 10 January 2002, London Underground was fined £225,000 for breaching safety standards for workers and accused by Judge John Samuels QC of "sacrificing safety" in order to keep trains running "at all costs".[55] Whilst the Judge acknowledged that London Underground was now addressing the safety issues raised, concerns remain that the pressure to deliver improvements under the PPP performance regime will be even higher and potentially in conflict with safe working practices.

Monitoring safety

24. The responsibility for monitoring the safe operation of the network and determining if, and when, new assets are safe for use falls to London Underground Limited as the Safety Case holder.[56] The Health and Safety Executive told us the process of implementing, managing and auditing a Railway Safety Case is necessarily very resource-intensive for both the Health and Safety Executive and the Safety Case holder. Parsons Brinckerhoff told the Sub-Committee, based on their experience in managing other PPP and Private Finance Initiative contracts, that the audit and approval arm of London Underground Limited should be "a much bigger organisation than is currently employed".[57]


27   LU11. Back

28   LU11. Back

29   LU7. Back

30   LU10. Back

31   LU7. Back

32   Q439. Back

33   LU7A. Back

34   IbidBack

35   LU7A. Back

36   Q456. Back

37   LU8. Back

38   LU3. Back

39   LU8. Back

40   IbidBack

41   Q437. Back

42   Q442. Back

43   Q448. Back

44   Qq443, 466. Back

45   Q442. Back

46   IbidBack

47   The Ladbroke Grove Rail Inquiry, Part 2 Report The Rt Hon Lord Cullen PC, HSE Books. Back

48   LU3. Back

49   LU5. Back

50   LU11. Back

51   LU10, LU13. Back

52   Q529. Back

53   Q458. Back

54   Q442. Back

55   London Underground fined over safety, BBC News on-line, 10 January. Back

56   LU13. Back

57   Q223. Back


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 5 February 2002