Control measure knowledge

It is important that the rail industry recovers from incidents quickly, but in a planned and co-ordinated way. Engagement with rail infrastructure representatives can greatly enhance future performance and operations when attending rail incidents, which can reduce the impact on business continuity for the rail authority and emergency responders.

Therefore, power isolation and train stoppages should only be requested by incident commanders when it is considered essential to protect life or property, and the safety of personnel.

Fire and rescue services should gather knowledge about the types of rail vehicles that operate in their area, as this will help to identify how to establish proportionate control over the railway. Establishing proportionate control over the railway should be a priority when personnel have to go within 3m of any track or rail power systems.

The decision for rail vehicles needing to run at caution or stopped, or for the isolation of power, should be based on a risk assessment and the requirements of the incident. If a level of control is required, the incident commander should provide the following information to the fire control room:

  • Reason for the request
  • Nature of the incident
  • What level of control is required, such as:
    • Rail vehicles running at caution
    • Rail vehicles being stopped
    • Power off
  • Location, using information such as:
    • Milepost
    • Signal number
    • Bridge number
    • Other identifying feature
    • Nearest access point

Inform the infrastructure manager of an incident on or near the railway

It may be sufficient to notify the infrastructure manager of some types of incident, such as:

  • Where a small fire can be safely monitored until it is extinguished
  • A ‘bridge strike’ where a lorry has wedged under a rail bridge, but with no obvious damage to the rail lines

Rail vehicles running at caution

This approach can be used when there is a need to slow rail vehicle movements, by notifying drivers that there are people on or near the rail infrastructure. In these circumstances the driver will adjust their speed to ensure that the vehicle can be brought safely to a halt, if required. An example would be if personnel are extinguishing a trackside fire more than 3m from the nearest running rail. This request would not be appropriate for systems using driverless rail vehicles.

Rail vehicles being stopped

The request to stop rail vehicles should be made if there is a risk of personnel being injured by train movements but will not be in contact with live electrical traction current. As this request can take time to implement, personnel should not assume that all rail vehicles have been stopped. It may not be possible to bring the rail vehicle to a stop before reaching the scene of operations.

Depending on the nature of the incident, the rail infrastructure manager may decide to invoke a ‘line blocked' approach. This is used if the line is unsafe for rail vehicles to run.

Power off

This request should be made if there is a significant risk of personnel coming into contact with live electrical traction current. However, this will not necessarily stop all rail vehicle movements, as diesel rail vehicles will be unaffected and high-speed electric rail vehicles can coast for some distance.

If personnel need to work within 3m of any traction power supply, incident commanders should request electrical isolation of the relevant track sections using the term ‘emergency switch off’. If the incident involves overhead line equipment (OLE), there is a risk that residual current may remain, or nearby high voltage power cables may induce an electrical charge into the OLE. When personnel are working closer than 1m from OLE, incident commanders should promptly request that the relevant OLE sections are earthed, in addition to being isolated. This can only be carried out by rail system personnel and confirmed by rail infrastructure managers; until confirmation is received all OLE should be assumed to be live.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Establish the process for fire control rooms to gather information from incident commanders and relay requests to the appropriate rail infrastructure manager

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Identify the proportionate level of control over the railway

  • Provide relevant information to the fire control room when requesting proportionate control of the railway

  • Seek specialist advice or assistance if required, to determine the proportionate level of control over the railway