LBA and BS 9992

The comprehensive new British Standard on the fire safety aspects of railway station and tunnel design has been published with the aim of achieving an adequate standard of life safety in the event of a fire. LBA is proud to have been part of the committee who wrote this unprecedented code of practice and looks forward to witnessing the benefits on future projects. 

I don’t know about you but I’ve always found it fascinating to learn what ideas a group of people can come up with when they’ve had a relaxing beer together at the end of a long working day.

Back in 2016, over a drink following a Rail Industry Fire Association (RIFA) seminar in Surrey, the idea of a new British Standard was born.

Jim Holland and Dennis Livingstone, now key members of the LBA team but then working at Network Rail and Mott MacDonald respectively, were involved in forming a small group, passionate about fire safety in the rail industry, who then became a working group to scope out the details for a new Standard. This small working group later co-opted, among others, Dave Harold who was working for LBA on HS2 with Mark Gilbey of WSP and therefore able to bring an additional level of expertise.

The group gradually became a committee, with Martin Weller of Atkins compiling a business case and presenting it to the BSI. Work then began on what has now been released as “BS9992:2020, Fire Safety In The Design, Management and Use of Rail Infrastructure” and the committee grew as time progressed, each member providing invaluable input into the writing of the Standard.

Why was a new British Standard needed? Well, over the years, many members of the construction industry had gained a lot of experience and learned a lot of lessons on major infrastructure projects, yet this was never written down and formalised into a rail fire safety Standard. Yes, there were TSIs that covered tunnels on the main rail network but they didn’t apply to metro-type rail or tramways. There were Standards which covered other aspects of fire safety or of fire engineering, yet none that covered the various stages of construction phase fire strategy.

This was problematic because Network Rail, for example, is a government-funded public sector company so the Treasury would, quite rightly, query requests whose requirements weren’t written down.  Additionally, at QDRs for new projects, which were held under BS7974, each new project would have the same queries, discussions and debates as to what the base point should be. Project managers naturally wouldn’t want to approve expenditure on aspects which weren’t written down in a formal document. In the end, they might have to agree to these aspects in order to satisfy key stakeholders but fire engineers who were present in many meetings could see there was a gap which needed to be filled in order to make life easier for all involved.

The publishing of BS9992 fills that gap and documents the UK rail industry’s Best Practice, providing a formal source of expertise gained by various people over many years. This will ensure that learning is carried forward and guidance provided to those who start work on similar projects in future, helping them avoid pitfalls others have already experienced and learned from. Jim Holland was very keen that BS9992 included, for example, the lessons learned during the redevelopment of London Bridge Station. This project involved both a construction site, where an existing station was undergoing extensive modification, and also an operational site which needed to keep trains running safely for paying train-travellers.

This Standard will be used internationally, with it and NFPA130 becoming the main rail standards globally. Some countries have smaller rail standards but BS9992 and NFPA130 are the most in-depth in terms of ensuring that best practice and learning from other projects is captured and carried forward.

The publishing of BS9992 fills that gap and documents the UK rail industry’s Best Practice, providing a formal source of expertise gained by various people over many years. This will ensure that learning is carried forward and guidance provided to those who start work on similar projects in future, helping them avoid pitfalls others have already experienced and learned from. Jim Holland was very keen that BS9992 included, for example, the lessons learned during the redevelopment of London Bridge Station. This project involved both a construction site, where an existing station was undergoing extensive modification, and also an operational site which needed to keep trains running safely for paying train-travellers.

This Standard will be used internationally, with it and NFPA130 becoming the main rail standards globally. Some countries have smaller rail standards but BS9992 and NFPA130 are the most in-depth in terms of ensuring that best practice and learning from other projects is captured and carried forward.

It probably goes without saying, therefore, that writing a British Standard is not an easy task, with the writing of BS9992 taking a couple of years. Sections of the Standard were allocated to different members of the committee, in accordance with each member’s expertise, and the LFB were involved from very early on, including their representative on the National Fire Chiefs Council. All committee members were in full-time employment so their commitments to the BSI had to be met and so did their commitments to their employers. It helped enormously that they all already knew each other and their backgrounds, so respected each other even before starting. Perhaps even better than that is the fact that they are all at the pinnacle of their careers and willing to invest considerable time to make a significant contribution to improving the future of the rail industry.

Of the LBA members, Dave Harold wrote the construction section, Dennis the means of escape section and Jim the tunnel section alongside Andy James and Mark Gilbey, whose experience was amazing. Although sections were written by individuals, everybody reviewed every section and commented on them, initially every couple of months but gradually on a monthly or twice-monthly basis. As is probably the case in most committees, there were some heated debates at times as to what was included but consensus would be reached and decisions made.

The committee was chaired by Martin Weller who, by all accounts, did a brilliant job of keeping the committee on track and navigating through the process, as did Sophie Watson of the BSI who edited the Standard, managed the Comments Resolution process and ensured that everything was submitted on time.

 

BS9992 was opened for public comment in November 2018, with the committee then meeting every month to address all the comments that were received, over 600 in total. Now that the Standard has been released, it will be reviewed every five years, although Standards can be amended before that if needed. Fortunately, the review process doesn’t take as long as the initial writing as any changes needed shouldn’t be fundamental.

It was hoped that there would be a presentation about BS9992 at the RIFA AGM later this year. This will still be the case but, due to a certain pandemic, the AGM and the BS9992 presentation will take place online. The pandemic also means there is a slight delay in the committee getting together for a well-earned drink to celebrate their achievement in having BS9992 published but, in the meantime, we send them all our congratulations and heartfelt thanks, and are proud to work with three of them at LBA.

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