Safeguarding the Norwegian railway network
11 April 2014 • Author(s): Erik Ø. Reiersøl-Johnsen, Director General, Norwegian Railway Authority
The Norwegian Railway Authority was established in 1996 with the task to safeguard public interest with respect to safety and to enforce the railway law and regulations. In Norway, responsibility for safety lies with the 37 individual railway companies. The jurisdiction of the Norwegian Railway Authority embraces all railway operations in Norway – heavy rail, light-rail, metro and tram – for infrastructure as well as rolling stock. In general terms, it covers operations and equipment related to passenger and freight transport running on tracks as well as the companies authorised for those purposes.
Even though Norway is not a member of the European Union, any Regulation, Directive, Decision or Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSI) related to heavy rail is implemented in the Norwegian legislation in accordance with the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement. The authority tasked with this implementation is the Ministry of Transport and Communications, but the Norwegian Railway Authority is normally delegated the task to develop and implement the required regulations. As a result, the number and extent of Norwegian-specific regulations for the national rail network are decreasing, and the conse – quence is a set of rules heavily influenced by European law.
Our supervision strategy is risk-based. One of our most important tools is the accidentdatabase. All duty-holders must continuously report undesired incidents to the Norwegian Railway Authority within 72 hours or eight days, depending on the severity of the incidents. Over the past few years there has been a high increase in the number of reported undesired incidents, i.e. those which might have led to accidents. There are indications that this increase in number is the result of better reporting routines of the duty-holders. Following many years of increase, it now looks like the number has stabilised itself at approximately 30,000 p.a. Although this number may seem high and indicates a low level of safety for Norwegian railways, the situation is actually the opposite. The waste number of reports concerns near misses, only indicating where risks may appear if not mitigated. But the awareness towards potential risks and risk mitigation is heavy, and the number of railway accidents is only 0.55 per million train km in Norway.
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