Health and safety laws


This section gives an overview of the main rail-specific legislation that we enforce using health and safety powers under the Health and Safety and Work etc. Act 1974.

As the health and safety regulator for the rail industry, we deliver advice and enforcement to help ensure the safety of both passengers and workers.

As well as being required to comply with the rail-specific legislation below, rail industry professionals must also comply with general health and safety legislation. Guidance regarding these can be found on the Health and Safety Executive’s website. Information on ‘electromagnetic fields’ (which is not rail-specific) can be found below.

The rail industry must comply with the requirements of the Railway and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations (ROGS).

Safety approvals under orders and private acts

Some transport operators may require approval under Transport and Works Act Orders, Light Railway Act Orders and private Acts of Parliament for activities such as a particular maximum speed of operation; approval to a particular maximum axle load; or the use of particular types of rolling stock (including tramcars).

The Railway Safety Directive created a common European framework for railway safety across Europe. In Great Britain, the requirements of the Directive are applied through ROGS only to the mainline railway. (Though ROGS do introduce some similar requirements for other railways and transport systems.)  The European Commission has introduced Regulations called common safety methods (CSMs) to support the common European safety framework.

This is a European Commission initiative to promote a single market in the rail sector. The legislation aims to remove technical barriers to the supply of equipment and the running of trains between member states.

On 6 April 2010 the Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010 came into force. This brings the requirement to hold a licence and certificate to drive a train into force.

On 6 April 2010 the Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Non-Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2010 came into force giving ORR new responsibilities for monitoring and enforcing compliance with regulations designed to improve accessibility for rail passengers.

The Railway Safety (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 1997 converted about 100 prescriptive requirements into five goal-setting duties which cover things such as preventing unauthorised access to the railway infrastructure and providing adequate braking systems.

The Railway Safety Regulations 1999 (RSR 99) required the installation of a form of train protection on the railway, and the staged withdrawal of Mark I rolling stock and rolling stock with hinged doors but without central locking. Post-implementation evaluation shows that RSR 99 have had a positive and real influence on safety related practices in the rail industry.


The Health and Safety (Enforcing Authority for Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems) Regulations 2006 (as amended) (“EARR”) allocate health and safety enforcement functions to ORR in relation to railways, tramways and other guided transport systems; and clarify ORR’s and the Health and Safety Executive’s respective responsibilities for enforcement of health and safety law in relation to railways, tramways and other guided transport systems

Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)

Regulations on the control of risks from EMF came into force on 1 July 2016. More information can be found on HSE's website and guidance specific to the rail industry has been published by RSSB.