‘Jacobite’ steam service reprieved
Network Rail has revoked the suspension of charter operator West Coast Railways’ track access rights, which was put in place following a signal passed at danger incident at Wootton Bassett on 7 March. The news means that as of Friday 8 May WCR was free to operate services on the rail network, and came only three days prior to the scheduled start of WCR’s ‘Jacobite’ steam-hauled service on the West Highland line between Fort William and Mallaig, which WCR says will operate as planned.
The suspension followed a series of safety concerns raised by NR after the incident, and in the suspension notice NR specified a number of actions which WCR was required to address by 15 May. NR says it is now satisfied by the company’s actions and in particular changes to its governance and safety management system.
In a letter to WCR Chairman David Smith, NR Freight Director Paul McMahon said: ‘We welcome the commitment West Coast Railways has made to improving safety management; the changes to your Safety Management System (SMS); and the three new roles (Director/General Manager, Head of Safety and Non-Executive Director) being introduced to strengthen safety leadership and corporate governance. We note your appointment before services recommence of your new Non-Executive Director and Alex McGregor of Lloyd’s Register as interim Head of Safety pending the permanent appointment; and for the ongoing engagement of First Class Partnerships to ensure that changes to the SMS are implemented effectively.’
Mr McMahon’s letter also confirmed that NR intends to review the company’s progress in working within its new governance structure and safety management system in three months’ time.
While its track access rights have been reinstated, WCR is still subject to an ongoing investigation by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), which is undertaking its own assessment to determine whether health and safety laws have been breached by the operator.