Learning from failure: Research initiatives towards improving resilience of the Swedish railway system

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Abstract

This paper includes a brief description of some closely related ongoing research activities aiming at learning from failures in order to improve the resilience of the Swedish railway system. One of these activities includes the development of a method aiming at assessing the capability for restoring the service of the railway system after strains affecting its technical, and often highly interdependent, elements. In the event of incidents affecting these technical elements, adequate capability of those actors responsible for restoring the system is important. The method is based on a systems approach, and builds on evaluation of a number of incidents that have occurred on a section of the Swedish railway system in workshop sessions, involving persons with substantial knowledge and experience from recovery operations. By varying these incidents by so-called counterfactual scenarios the capability to return to normal operation after different types and magnitudes of strain can be demonstrated. Hence, the method is useful for evaluating the preparedness for future incidents affecting the railway system. Another study where a similar starting point is used, but where a wider spectrum
of serious incidents and accidents form the basis for analysis, is a study focusing on the ability to learn from accidents that have stricken the railway system. Incidents and accidents, and in particular the subsequent accident investigation reports that are issued by the accident investigation boards in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, are studied in order to evaluate their potential for enhancing implementation of lessons learned. Although still in its initial stage, the preliminary results from the study indicate that problems for example stemming from the difficulties in knowledge transfer between different hierarchical levels in society influence the process of learning from accidents. The third study presented in this paper aims at describing the decision
making process regarding investments in safety measures in railway tunnel projects. The study is based on interviews with persons involved in six Swedish railway tunnel projects comprising a total of 28 tunnels. The actors involved in the decision making process have considerably different points of departure, which at least in some of the studied projects has proven to be a reason for discussions and disagreements regarding the design of different safety measures. The results from this study show that substantial resources are invested in safety measures in all of the studied projects. However, the study also indicate that there is a need for increased coordination between the different authorities and organizational levels involved in the projects, and that the
experience transfer between different projects can be improved. The three case studies are illustrated in an analytical framework that can be used as a basis for further studies, and it can be concluded that the different approaches are valuable in order to improve the resilience of the Swedish railway system.

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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Building Technologies
  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Other Civil Engineering
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2009 Båstad Conference
PublisherInternational Rail Safety Conference
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes
EventInternational Rail Safety Conference - Båstad, Sweden
Duration: 2009 Sep 282009 Sep 30

Conference

ConferenceInternational Rail Safety Conference
CountrySweden
CityBåstad
Period2009/09/282009/09/30

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