The risk that NS fails to take sufficient measures in the Netherlands to prevent safety incidents, or fails to properly fulfil its duty of care if a serious safety incident occurs involving passengers, employees and/or the locality due to non-compliance with safety procedures or abuses of processes by malicious individuals.
‘Safety’ covers ten safety areas: safety on the railways, personal safety, occupational safety, fire safety, transfer safety, information security, rolling stock safety, environmental safety, food safety, and security (including antiterrorism measures).
Given its importance for safe and effective operations, safety will always remain a focal point. NS seeks to transport its passengers safely, ensure their safety at stations and offer its staff a safe workplace. We started a programme for further improvement of our safety culture in 2015. NS aims to grow develop a proactive safety culture in the long term and made further progress in this direction in 2019.
Rail travel is one of the safest forms of mobility. NS seeks to continue improving safety by focusing on two elements: control of the safety risks and continuous improvement of safety performance. To ensure effective control across all the operations involved, we have assigned clear governance roles to the various business units alongside the central Security function. Significant progress has been made, but further growth is still needed to attain the required level of maturity.
Improvements have been implemented in various safety areas, which has increased safety. As regards occupational safety, we use Risk Assessments and Evaluations as a framework for improvement measures, with close involvement of the Executive Board and management team through initiatives such as safety walks. This has contributed to a further reduction of the number of occupational accidents per million of worked hours (the Total Recordable Rate), from 5.3 in 2018 to 4.5 in 2019. In addition, the chromium-6 programme focuses not just on carrying out the current work safely, but also on investigating the working conditions at NS in the past.
As regards safety on the railways, following the installation of ORBIT in trains, the driver receives an acoustic signal when approaching a red signal too fast. This should help to reduce the number of SPADs. ORBIT was installed in all SLT type Sprinter trains in 2019. We have outlined two potential approaches for the system improvement that is required to eliminate dependency on the driver taking the right actions. We are currently testing those two approaches in collaboration with ProRail and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and plan to take a joint decision in 2020.
As regards personal safety, check-in and check-out gates are being taken into operation at more and more stations, which is helping to increase safety on trains and at stations. In September, the powers of Safety & Service staff at the stations were reformulated to also allow them to intervene in shops and in bicycle parking facilities.
NS maintains links with various government bodies, including the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV), the Police and the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), and is kept abreast of external developments in the security landscape.
According to the NCTV, the risk of an attack on the railways remains real. The attack in a tram in Utrecht on 18 March 2019 is a reminder that we need to remain alert. NS continuously updates its counterterrorism policy and plans based on the latest information, in partnership with the government and ProRail. This concerns both preventative and restorative measures (limiting damage and ensuring quick recovery). In order to strengthen preparedness in the face of potential terrorist threats or attacks, we conducted joint exercises with ProRail and relevant safety partners in 2019, as in previous years.
As regards ICT security, NS uses a roadmap to update and monitor cyber risks (see Risk 6).
Risk control trend
The safety of our staff, passengers and environment is a top priority. The developments sketched above mean that the level of control remains sound and has actually improved in various respects. Despite the measures taken, NS cannot rule out safety incidents occurring. According to the NCTV, the general threat of terrorist attacks in the Netherlands has decreased, but remains considerable.