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Network Rail (NW & Central)

A behavioural-design approach to colleague wellbeing

Network Rail owns, repairs and develops the railway infrastructure in England, Scotland and Wales. Its 40,000 people manage 20,000 miles of track and 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts.

We are working with Network Rail across a number of its operating regions, on multiple safety processes and communications. For its North West and Central Region we are taking a behavioural design approach to the signalling function and associated roles, in order to minimise operational close call incidents (OCCIs). A particular area of focus is on potentially serious incidents that can occur when signalling planned and unplanned line blockages, or during what are known as ‘T3 possessions’, where a section of line is closed to allow for complete safety protection on-track.

We audited the Region’s signalling processes and policy documentation with a view to behaviour-driven recommendations around their content, and how they are communicated. We also observed the behaviours of signalling staff during typical processes.

From the resultant insight, we identified and fed back a number of opportunities to drive collaboration across the planning and signalling functions, and to improve the reporting system. These included the part-automation/integration of the process to make it more streamlined, and more importantly, to reduce the cognitive load on the signallers, and hence the potential for human error during data entry or telephone communication. Following this work, we are also now delivering a project on colleague COSS safety briefings.

Our behavioural-design approach helped Network Rail to identify and define the barriers to safety inherent in the signalling process, and any biases and motivations that shaped colleague behaviours. It also enabled us to quickly home in on the key opportunities for behavioural optimisation in this safety-critical element of network operation.