Safe railways for Australia

Safety Message: Network Controller competencies


ONRSR is advising all rail transport operators of the need to assess and address where necessary the competency of network controllers following a series of concerning incidents.

A lack of true practical competency of network controllers is an emerging trend in investigation reports suggesting that, while further work needs to be done to understand the issue in detail, many RTOs are using inexperienced staff in these safety critical roles.

In some cases preliminary incident investigations have revealed that controllers are making decisions without a full appreciation of the risks involved and, in the event of an emergency, many are struggling to determine an appropriate response.

Historically a network controller has been a senior position requiring many years of practical experience in a wide range of operational roles. Thorough examinations meant that only a small percentage of applicants were ever deemed appropriately skilled and qualified for the role.

ONRSR is concerned that a combination of a lack of opportunity and time for potential network controllers to gain the experience required, coupled with a shift toward theory-based learning, is presenting safety risks for a range of operators across the various sectors of the Australian rail industry.

ONRSR expects all rail transport operators to assess and address this risk as part of the ongoing review and maintenance of their safety management systems. A number of compliance activities and strategies are now being planned by the national regulator for roll out later this year and throughout 2021.

For further information contact your local ONRSR office

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