Wednesday 7 October 2009

19th International Rail Safety Conference (IRSC) (Båstad, Sweden, 28 September – 02 October 2009)

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The 19th annual International Railway Safety Conference (IRSC) was held in Båstad, Sweden from 28th September until 2nd October. It was organised by the safety unit of Banverket and was held in the splendid coastal setting where the Swedish open tennis tournament is also held. The UIC played a key role in supporting the programme for the event by providing a team of interpreters so that the event, in Europe for the first time since 2006, could be undertaken in English, French and German. Simon Fletcher, Regional Coordinator, Europe represented the UIC HQ team.

IRSC is an event that is organised by the sector, for the sector and is not for profit. It is a forum that brings together rail safety professionals from around the globe in order to exchange information and provide experiences and lessons learned in rail safety. As running a rail network safely involves most if not all the sub-systems of the rail architecture, IRSC extends to a wide range of subject areas.

The 5 core themes of IRSC 2009 were:

1. Safety management in a changing world
2. Human behaviour in a complex system
3. How safe is safe enough?
4. Safety and security – harmonised or conflicting goals
5. Safety standards – harmonisation or uniformity

Around 140 participants from 22 countries with representation from all 5 continents were in Båstad.

Delegates were from train operators and infrastructure managers, as well as government regulatory agencies, railway accident investigation bodies, trades unions, equipment manufacturers, consultancies and associations representing railway companies.

Speakers were from Australia, UK, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Holland, Korea, USA, the European Railway Agency, South Africa, Ireland, Hong Kong, France and Canada.

John-Åke Hallden, Senior Safety Strategist at Banverket was the convenor for the event and was especially pleased to welcome the Banverket Chief Executive, Minoo Akhtarzand who formally opened the conference. She outlined the continuing downward trend in rail accidents in Sweden and highlighted their desire to become a world class organisation. She outlined her belief that IRSC is a key event on the world stage for sharing experiences and learning from each other.

Anders Lundstrøm, Head of Safety Unit with the European Railway Agency gave the keynote opening to the event and highlighted the role of the ERA and the background to the current legislative framework in Europe.

Other speakers presented their thoughts and/or experience on a range of issues such as Managing risk in a period of change, both organisationally and for specific groups of staff such as train drivers.
There was a key contribution from East Japan Railways (JRE) who outlined their vision for safety over the next 5 years.
Another headline contribution from RSSB, UK, focussed on the uses of data to ensure that decisions affecting safety are made based on a sound foundation and therefore effectively.
There were inputs to conference from a number of regulators including Michel Aymeric, EPSF, France. This breadth of input is one of the strengths of IRSC as it is possibly the only conference on the circuit that brings together the rail operators and the regulators in one place.
Accident investigation is also a key subject at IRSC and there were presentations from the Irish National Investigation Body (NIB) as well as the ERA and the Transport Safety Board (TSB) in Canada.

Suicides and the stress-related circumstances that follow such accidents were also discussed in some detail with input from Sweden and Germany. Simon Fletcher, chairing the particular session, was able to announce to conference that the UIC is holding a Stress and Post-Traumatic Stress workshop in Paris on 18th November.
One further issue that arose was one that related to the old question of safety versus performance and a very interesting case study was presented by the JRE Workers Union.

Trade Unions have been regular attendees at IRSC over the years and we were also delighted that the Free Workers Trade Union of Hungary were also present.

Simon Fletcher presented a perspective jointly prepared with Jacques Colliard, Head of Security which discussed the relationship between security and safety as part of an integrated safety management system. He outlined the major operational risk that is imported onto the railway by people trespassing on the network and the high number of fatalities to these third parties being hit by trains. The UIC safety database has recorded an increase in the number of these occurrences in 2008; the Safety Platform is considering running a study during 2010 to help members better understand the issues.
He briefed conference on the major success of the European Level Crossing Awareness Day (ELCAD) that had been held in June 2009 with 27 countries around Europe taking part and with the support of bodies such as the European Commission, the ERA, the United Nations as well as countries such as the USA, Australia, South Africa and Argentina. There will be an International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) in June 2010 and IRSC delegates were invited to note the event. It is being facilitated by the UIC with the support of the European Level Crossing Forum who would be delighted if any organisations outside Europe would like to join forces and create a chain of events all around the world.

One area that IRSC has considered in the past but which merits some greater attention is that of safety culture and educating people as to “the way we do things around here”. IRSC were enraptured by the very powerful presentation that was given by Dipuo Nasaro, Transnet, South Africa on the experience she has had with developing a safety culture on South Africa’s premier freight railway. Her thoughts provoked a lot of discussion and will no doubt influence a theme for a future IRSC.

At the end of the third day, Simon Fletcher moderated an open forum that set out to hear the testimony of the delegates, what they would take away from the event and what ideas they had heard that could improve safety on their railway. He also asked conference to offer a number of themes that could be used to develop the 2010 event. The delegates were not slow in coming forward with praise for the organisation of the event this year (richly deserved) and loudly applauded Maria Jansson-Hedqvist the Project Manager for IRSC 2009.
In terms of ideas for next year there were several that have not featured on the IRSC agenda before including maintenance, and the detailed look at the technical interfaces between sub-systems.
Finally, conference endorsed the idea of the ILCAD in 2010, supported the continued IRSC model that involves players right across the system architecture and the importance of sharing knowledge and good practice from every part of the world.

Technical Visits

The organisers also arranged a very interesting series of technical visits. The first of those was to the City-tunnel project in Malmo. The transport from Båstad to Malmö was a steam-hauled special involving a B-class 4-6-0 locomotive, from 1910. Originally built for heavy passenger trains on the Swedish state railways it is now operated by the Swedish Railway museum.
The technical visit was then split into three parts. First there was a presentation about the project and then the group visited the exhibition. By far the most interesting part was the site visit to look at the tunnels.
The other major engineering feat in this region is the Öresund bridge. On the journey to the bridge the group was shown a film made by National Geographic about the bridge. At the bridge, courtesy of the bridge operators and the railway undertaking DSB, a special series of stops were made actually on the bridge so that delegates were able to look at the various features up close.
Core Group
This meets every year during the conference and takes the responsibility for forward planning for future events, managing the IRSC website and the terms of reference for the event. The UIC are members of the Core Group.
Following a proposal put forward by the Australasian Railway Association, it was agreed that IRSC 2011 will take place in Melbourne, Australia. A proposal for the 2012 event to be in the UK is currently being developed.
Recognising that the 2010 Global Level Crossing Symposium will take place between 26th and 28th October 2010 in Tokyo, it was agreed that the 2010 hosts will ensure that synergies are exploited as far as possible and the level crossing papers will not be considered for IRSC 2010.

The Core Group is made up of a number of organisations most of whom have hosted previous events or have regularly attended IRSC and ensures that there is representation from as many regions/continents as possible.
It is a very healthy sign that not only are there likely venues for 2011 and 2012, but that there are already potential hosts for 2013, 2014 & possibly even 2015.

IRSC 2010 – celebrating 20 years of international cooperation

The policy of IRSC is to hold events on as many continents as possible so to accessible to as many regional delegates as possible. More recent events have been held in the USA, India, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and France (SNCF/UIC). The Core Group was delighted to be able to confirm that the 20th anniversary event will take place in Hong Kong:

Save this date in you diary now

IRSC 2010 will be organised by MTR and will be held in Hong Kong from 4th – 6th October 2010 plus technical visits

The organisers of IRSC 2010, MTR, look forward to welcoming you to Hong Kong.

For more information please contact Simon Fletcher:

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