Rail Transport

Rail Transport

Human Factors and Safety Evaluations

British Railways Board

  • Safety aspects of hand-signalling.
  • Review of platform equipment provided for driver-only operation.
  • Evaluation of safety aspects of driver only train operation.

Docklands Light Railway

  • Human factors evaluation of a new control room and automated train control systems.

European Commission

  • Human factors aspects of cross border rail operations (Human Safe Rail in Europe - HUSARE).

London Underground Limited

  • Human factors analysis (risk assessment and reduction programme).
  • Comparative safety evaluation of passenger guarding measures on escalators.
  • Risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis of escalator replacement strategies.

National Union of Railwaymen

  • Evaluation of a proposed visual display unit based system for signalling trains.


  • A human factors assessment of the change in risk due to high speed train operations.
  • Human factors aspects of differential speed limit signs and in-cab displays.
  • A human reliability analysis of the detection of multiple speed signs and the adoption of permitted speeds. Further details
  • Independent Safety Assessor for human factors elements of the upgrading of the North Staffordshire Signalling Centre.
  • Independent Safety Assessor for human factors elements of the upgrading of the West Coast Main Line.

Accident/Incident Investigation

British Railways Board

  • Investigation of the Clapham Junction accident for the Public Enquiry.

British Railways Research

  • Design of reporting form for signals passed at danger accidents.

London Underground Limited

  • Study of the causes of accidents on escalators.


  • Pilot study with Railtrack North East on the analysis of factors affecting incidents of signals passed at danger (SPADs)

Ergonomic Evaluations

British Railways Board

  • Ergonomic evaluation of cab design.

London Underground Limited

  • Ergonomic and safety evaluation of guarding methods in escalator machine rooms.

Training and Procedures

Arriva Trains Merseyside

  • Development and provision of a training course based Understanding & Preventing Human Error and learning lessons from incidents.


  • Developed a specification that supported a training simulator in line with the recommendations of the Uff report into the Southall rail accident inquiry.


  • Summary of documentation guidelines for procedures & research on information presentation.


Further Details on Rail Industry Projects

Human factors aspects of cross border rail operations (European Commission)

Human Reliability have participated in a European research project funded by the European Commission (Directorate General for Transport, DG VII). This project, involving several European partners including DNV (Norway), SNCF (France), Halcrow Transmark (UK), and TUV Eurorail (Germany), is entitled `Managing the Human Factor in Multicultural and Multilingual Rail Environments`. It has the aim of increasing both safety and reliability for European cross-border railway lines.

An integration of the rail transport system means that trains will increasingly have to operate across the borders of countries with different systems, rules and procedures. Such differences may have profound implications for these operations in terms of the management of safety. For example, the same driver may be faced with several differences in language, rules and procedures, roles and responsibilities, signal-positioning etc. during a journey from, say, Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris. Any such differences will be particularly significant in degraded conditions and emergencies.

The project aimed to analyse the risks of rail operations and identify the role of the human in initiating and mitigating these risks. The outputs of this work will include an overview of the risks involved in such operations, methods for evaluating & improving the `human factor` and suggestions for harmonisation to reduce risk (for example, of rules and procedures).

A human reliability analysis of the detection of multiple speed signs and the adoption of permitted speeds (Railtrack)

This study was concerned with the impact of the introduction of multiple speed signs and the ability of drivers to detect and adopt permitted speeds.

For drivers with substantial experience on a route, the additional perceptual loading imposed by the use of multiple speed signs is considered low, because such drivers rely primarily on route knowledge to determine the appropriate speeds. For experienced drivers, signs are not read to obtain speed information, but rather to confirm, in conjunction with route knowledge, that a speed change is required. During the interviews, drivers maintained that they were still able to maintain the required speeds even if signs were absent or illegible due to vandalism. This supports the conclusion that for experienced drivers, the introduction of multiple speed signs does not pose a substantial increase in risk. In order to provide objective support for this conclusion a more extended risk analysis study would be required.

Some potential risks may arise for drivers who are less experienced on the route, such as newly qualified drivers, or experienced drivers who are unacquainted with a route. In this case, the perceptual loading on the driver is likely to be higher, particularly in situations where multi-tasking is required, e.g. when approaching complex junctions or intersections. This could lead to a variety of errors, including failures to observe signals. Suitable preventative measures should be incorporated in the Group Standard or Approved Code of Practice including aspects of the training and competency assessment programme, to ensure that drivers are fully aware of the location of speed restrictions when training for a particular line.

Another potential hazard is the danger of `strong stereotype take-overs`. These arise when drivers who are primarily experienced with a particular train type with a high permitted speed, but are occasionally required to drive a train of similar appearance with a lower permitted speed. This can lead to the driver reverting to speeds that are inappropriate for the type of train being driven, if distractions and stress lead to attention being diverted. Although it may not be appropriate to address the strong stereotype error in the tilting train standard, measures need to be taken to ensure that the cabs of different types of trains appear visually distinct, e.g. by the use of colour (in-cab labelling is not enough to differentiate between cabs). In addition, there is a need to evaluate the driving patterns of individual drivers to assess whether these patterns could give rise to strong stereotype errors.