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The Transport Agency’s commitment to rail safety includes assessing licence holders’ performance in meeting their legal, safety and operational obligations. The main way it does this is through conducting safety assessments. These check the compliance of licence holders with their safety cases.

An appointed safety assessor who has defined powers and responsibilities under the Act carries out these assessments.

The objectives, scope and criteria of each safety assessment is described in a terms of reference or assessment confirmation letter. The Agency considers previous assessment findings, accident and incident records and input from licence holder’s management and staff representatives as part of assessment planning.

The Railways Act describes the consultation, reporting and costs relating to safety assessments in subpart four(external link).

Ordinary safety assessments

The Agency conducts ordinary safety assessment as part of its routine operations. A risk model determines the frequency of a licence holder’s assessment.

An assessment is not an inspection. For example, the assessor will not inspect track conditions but will check to see that a suitably qualified person is inspecting the track, at specified intervals and using processes as set out in the approved safety case.

If an assessor observes a process that does not comply with the licence holder's safety case, they will note this in their report and describe the actions the licence holder may take to comply.

If the assessor observes a process that complies, but could be done better, they will recommend what the licence holder can do to improve.

The assessment process provides licence holders and their staff representatives the opportunity to respond to the assessment findings.  Only after that consultation and the issuing of a final report, will the Agency consider whether any remedial action is required in addition to the findings of the assessment. 

Special safety assessments

If the Transport Agency has a particular concern, it may decide to undertake a special safety assessment. It may be:

  • as a result of information received about safety concerns regarding a rail participant
  • the targeting of specific areas of risk – identified through incidents or trends
  • in response to a notifiable occurrence (accident or incident) concerning a rail participant
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