What is the RAIB?
Why was the RAIB formed?
How is the RAIB organised?
Where is the RAIB based?
What accidents does the RAIB investigate?
Who notifies the RAIB about an accident?
How does the RAIB respond to an accident notification?
Who carries out the RAIB's investigations?
What happens at the accident site?
What evidence is the RAIB looking for?
Who is responsible for evidence?
What are the RAIB's powers?
How does the RAIB make the details of its investigations known?
How do these reports affect the railway industry?
How is the RAIB funded?
Does the RAIB have a role outside of the UK?
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is the independent railway accident investigation organisation for the UK.
The RAIB is concerned with the investigation of accidents and incidents on:
- The national railway networks in Great Britain and Northern Ireland;
- The Channel Tunnel (in co-operation with its equivalent operation in France);
- The London and Glasgow Underground systems and other metro systems;
- Heritage railways (including narrow-gauge systems over 350mm gauge); and
- Cable-hauled systems of 1km or longer.
The purpose of an RAIB investigation is to improve the safety of railways, and to prevent further accidents from occurring.
The RAIB achieves this by identifying the causes of accidents and other aspects that made the outcome worse.
The RAIB’s investigations are entirely independent and are focused solely on safety improvement. The RAIB does not apportion blame or liability nor enforce law or carry out prosecutions.
More information about the RAIB can be found in Leaflet 01 - An introduction to the RAIB. Read or download this leaflet by clicking here
The formation of an organisation to independently investigate railway accidents with the aim of improving safety was recommended in Lord Cullen’s inquiry report on the Ladbroke Grove rail accident in 1999.
The RAIB was established by the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003. The Act enabled the Secretary of State for Transport to make detailed provision in regulations without which the RAIB could not operate. The Railways (Accident Investigation and Reporting) Regulations were made in 2005 and define the RAIB’s powers and duties, the scope of its work and dealings with other people and organisations that are involved in rail accidents. You can read and download the Regulations by clicking here.
The establishment of the RAIB also fulfils the UK’s duty to provide an independent rail accident investigation body under the European Railway Safety Directive (2004/49/EC).
Read or download copies of these documents by clicking on the respective links or by clicking here
The RAIB is independent of the railway industry, safety regulators and prosecution bodies. Like the Air and Marine Accident Investigation Branches (AAIB and MAlB) the RAIB forms part of the Department for Transport, but is functionally independent: the Chief Inspector reports on accident investigations directly to the Secretary of State.
View the RAIB organisation chart by clicking here
The RAIB has operational centres in Derby and Woking. These locations enable the RAIB Investigators to respond as quickly as possible to accidents occurring in any part of the UK.
Contact information for the RAIB can be found by clicking here
The RAIB must by law investigate all rail accidents involving a derailment or collision which result in, or could result in:
- The death of at least one person;
- Serious injury to five or more people; or
- Extensive damage to rolling stock, the infra-structure or the environment.
The RAIB may also investigate other incidents which have implications for railway safety, including those which under slightly different circumstances may have led to an accident.
When an accident happens, the obligation to notify the RAIB is on those railway industry bodies (railway infrastructure managers, railway operators or maintainers) whose staff or property is involved in an accident of incident.
More information on notification can be found by clicking here
If an accident or incident occurs, the RAIB will decide its response, which will be influenced by:
- Whether the investigation is mandated by law;
- Whether there is important evidence at the scene;
- Whether it is part of a trend; or
- The safety issues at stake.
The response will range from immediate dispatch of Inspectors to the site, site investigation, collection of evidence through to supervising others carrying out an investigation.
The RAIB has discretion to investigate any other accidents that involve operating trains. In deciding which to investigate, the RAIB will take into account the seriousness of the accident and the potential for lessons learned and the improvement of safety.
Accidents not investigated by the RAIB will still be investigated by the industry parties involved, and potentially the Police or safety authority.
The RAIB will not investigate:
- Worker accidents/incidents with the exception of those involving train movements;
- Accidents/incidents involving trespassers or suicides; or
- Accidents/incidents where there are no likely safety lessons to be learned.
To carry out its investigations the RAIB has appointed and trained Inspectors recruited from the railway industry and other investigating bodies. They are experienced, have a broad mixture of skills across the railway industry and have been trained in investigation techniques. All inspectors carry an RAIB warrant card, which identifies their powers at the scene of an investigation.
The RAIB can appoint others to assist them in an investigation, including Accredited Agents, who may assist in recording evidence at the accident site, and specialist services.
Following an accident, a number of investigations may be started by different organisations. The objectives of these investigations are different.
The RAIB provides a focus and lead for the technical investigation into the causes and consequences of the accident. However, the roles of the police, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COFPS) in Scotland, and the Safety Authority* are not changed by the existence of the RAIB. These agencies may investigate to find out if there has been a breach of the law.
The RAIB’s investigations normally involve Inspectors visiting the accident scene, assessing what has happened and gathering the evidence needed to find the cause.
As part of collecting evidence from the scene, the RAIB Inspectors may take statements from people who witnessed the accident.
Evidence about the cause of the accident may come from a number of different sources including the trains, the track, the signalling system and other infrastructure management, operations and procedures or maintenance, design and training documents.
It may also be in different forms, including damaged equipment, data from monitoring equipment on trains and in the signalling system or records.
The RAIB will share physical and documentary evidence relating to the investigation with other bodies - including the police, COPFS and the Safety Authority*. However, it will not disclose witness statements or witness identity to anyone.
More information about how the RAIB protects the identity of witnesses and their statements can be found in Leaflet 02 - Your witness statement. Read or download this leaflet by clicking here
The powers of the RAIB and its Inspectors - and the framework for reporting and investigating accidents - are set out in the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 and the Railways (Accident Investigation and Reporting) Regulations 2005.
The RAIB Inspectors have the power to:
- Enter railway property, land or vehicles;
- Seize anything relating to the accident and make records;
- Require access to and disclosure of records and information; and
- Require people to answer questions and provide information about anything relevant to the investigation.
The RAIB publishes reports on every accident it investigates. This can be in formal reports on the specific accident or incident published at the earliest opportunity, or in periodic publications when there are no urgent safety issues.
The RAIB may produce an interim report during an investigation when it wants to communicate early information that may be useful to others. These publications will be available to all on the RAIB website
Additionally, the RAIB may issue safety advice shortly after the accident or at any other time during an investigation if it discovers, during an investigation, that something needs to be done urgently to make railways safer.
Ordinarily, the RAIB’s reports make recommendations on actions that it believes are needed to improve railway safety. These recommendations have to be addressed, by law, to the relevant safety authorities and other public bodies as appropriate even though they may not be the end implementer.
The safety authorities have a responsibility to ensure the RAIB’s recommendations are considered by the end implementer and appropriate action is taken by them. The RAIB’s recommendations can be directed at railway companies, government bodies and anyone else who has a role that affects how the railways are run.
The end implementer will be made aware of the RAIB's reports and recommendations via the Safety Authority, and through the RAIB's public distribution through the website.
RAIB receives annual funding to meet the costs of its investigation work in the form of a grant-in-aid from Parliament, through the Department for Transport (DfT).
To further railway safety, the RAIB maintains strong links with other railway accident investigation bodies around the world.
The RAIB has a duty to co-operate with other European rail accident investigation branches created under the European Directive. This is particularly relevant for cross-border services such as those in Ireland and the Channel Tunnel.
Additionally, the RAIB has a duty to report to the European Rail Agency on accidents and incidents occurring on the railways in the United Kingdom.
*The Safety Authorities for the UK are: the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR); the Northern Ireland Department (NID) and the Intergovernmental Commission (IGC).