Network Rail - Role of the Rail Incident Officer

Our Ref: HSR/2/19
Head Office Circular: NP/244/21
7th July 2021
To: The Secretary

Dear Colleague,


Your South West Midlands Branch submitted the following resolution:

The South West Midlands branch has concerns with Network Rail’s cavalier attitude to the role of the Rail Incident Officer (RIO) and how changes brought in by Network Rail (NR) management (November 2020) are diluting the responsibilities and gravity of the role.

MOMs can be required to take on the duties of Rail Incident Officer (RIO) or Controller of Site Safety (COSS) when attending major lineside incidents.

These are separate roles and have separate safety critical duties and accountabilities so one MOM cannot hold both roles during an incident.

NR changed the national operating policy in November 2020 so the RIO must now set up a ‘safe system of work’. This is being used locally to force MOMs to set up line blockages whilst appointed as a RIO and, if they don’t, they are being threatened with disciplinary action. Taking line blockages is a COSS duty.

Up until these changes were made, the procedures were adequately covered by the following documents:

• Module M3 Part 3 (3.2) of the Rule Book
3.2 Dealing with Trains:
You (the Signaller) must arrange for trains to be stopped on all lines until you have found out where the body is.

You may allow trains to proceed if:
You have been told that the body is clear of the line.

On arrival at the scene of a fatality the RIO will contact the Signaller to ensure that this rule is being adhered to and will remain in place until the RIO tells the Signaller otherwise, therefore ensure a safe system of working on the affected lines is in place.

Discussion has taken place between RMT Local Council representatives and NR Management and the key points were:

• A MOM cannot act as both a RIO and a COSS simultaneously due to the intricacies of each role

• The changes are not required as they are already adequately covered by existing procedures (noted below)

• Network Rails Keypoints Handbook for COSS, Page 29

Rail incident officer (RIO)
“The RIO is responsible for onsite command and control of all related organisations and their support at an accident or incident involving train operations, lines or sidings. The RIO is not responsible for setting up Safe Systems of Work
This is the responsibility of the COSS following communication with the RIO.”

Network Rail continues to insist that the MOM must take a line blockage and that the section within the Network Rail Handbook for COSS’s would be withdrawn or amended in line with the changes.

To the best of our knowledge there has been no consultation with RMT regarding the removal/amendment of the COSS handbook section or any risk assessment pertaining to its removal.

There are serious concerns by making these changes Network Rail are disrupting the safety critical work practices of the on- site RIO and COSS in these fatality situations for the benefit of restoring normal train services as quickly as possible in order to save money and as such we request the following:

• Disciplinary action against MOMs not taking line blockages in their role of RIO is to cease

• COSS and RIO to remain as separate safety critical roles

• Risk assessment to be held by assessor with RIO accreditation

Your National Executive Committee (NEC), at its meeting on 6th July 2021, noted and adopted the following report from its Health and Safety Sub-committee:

We note the resolution form our South West Midlands Branch, for which it is thanked.

The General Secretary is instructed to write to Network Rail demanding that disciplinary action against MOMs not taking line blockages in their role of RIO to cease; COSS and RIO remain as separate safety critical roles; and Risk Assessments be held by assessors with RIO accreditation.

Any updates to be placed back before this NEC.

Relevant Branches and Regional Councils to be advised

I am acting in accordance with these instructions.

Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of relevant members.

Yours sincerely

Michael Lynch
General Secretary