More than 80 000 rail staff now have access to a system that allows employees concerned about safety to make confidential reports if they feel they cannot do so through normal channels, or through their managers. Railway companies throughout the country have signed up to CIRAS, the Confidential Incident Reporting and Analysis System that was first developed in Scotland. The system is open to Railway Group members and other participating companies, and comprises a core facility supported by three regional centres.

Region one covers Railtrack in Scotland and Eastern England. It also covers the national activities of both English, Welsh and Scottish Railways (EWS) and Virgin Trains. Region two takes in the Railtrack zones of the North West and the Midlands plus all of London Underground, whilst region three takes in the areas covered by Railtrack’s Southern and Great Western organisations.

Railway Safety funds the cost of the core facility. The costs of the regional centres are paid for by participating companies through a levy based on the number of staff enrolled.

Under the scheme employees are able to report concerns to the regional centres which conduct follow-up interviews and provide data to a national database that is administered by the core.

Each regional centre publishes quarterly journals for users, reporting on regional and national findings. The core facility contributes articles to these journals and publishes twice-yearly reports with high-level information aimed at senior management. This is being used to drive safety improvements at both industry and individual company levels.

Work is in hand to develop an extension of CIRAS focussed on the needs of the many smaller contractors and sub-contractors.

Given that the confidentiality of the data is crucial to the system’s existence, the CIRAS Charitable Trust has been established to own the system and to control access to the data. The Trustees are drawn from a number of backgrounds including the trades unions and academia as well as the industry including users’ groups.

Railway Safety provides the funding for the Trust’s work and also supplies project management and other facilitational support to the CIRAS national steering group which oversees the operation of the system.