Railway Vehicle
Authorisation Process


Stuart Drummond

Stuart Drummond

The examples around stakeholders resonated with me. I work with quite a few stakeholders… It was a great opportunity for me to learn about the challenges they face, rather than just looking at everything from the operator’s point of view.

Verified by an engineer

Stuart Drummond came to the rail sector after completing his apprenticeship and achieving qualifications in diesel engineering. He then embarked upon a career as a commando in the Royal Marines, leaving after five years for an engineer supervisor role in the bus industry with FirstGroup. He soon rose through FirstGroup and became a Fleet Engineer before deciding to move into the rail sector at Merseyrail.

“My career path has led me to develop and learn during my career through gaining experience on the job and going on training courses, rather than go to university,” says Stuart, 47. “My main reason to move to the rail sector was to improve my technical knowledge and for further career development. Merseyrail has a fully electrified network, and it feels like a perfect fit for me.”


Why the Railway Vehicle Authorisation Process course?

“I have been in railways for five years – I worked in the bus industry before that – and, in some ways, it’s been quite a steep learning curve. During and after Covid, we’ve seen people leave the organisation, so we’ve lost a bit of knowledge, experience and expertise.

“At the same time, we are introducing a new fleet of trains on Merseyrail, plus a modified sub fleet that will be the first battery-operated trains to be used on an underground rail network in the UK. I was involved from an early stage in the design review and operator authorisation process. I am now responsible for the fleet authorisation as the engineering project lead.

“I had already carried out a lot of research, reading and on the job learning around Common Safety Method on Risk Evaluation and Assessment (CSM-RA) and the relevant compatibility requirements. We also had the Assessment Body (AsBo) to lean on as well, to guide us in the right direction. But as the project progressed, I wanted to sense check that I was doing everything right. That was one of the main reasons I attended the course – to ensure everything was carried out correctly, so there were no avoidable delays to the project.

“I was specifically looking for a course that would underpin my knowledge of the legislation that supports CSM-RA for putting trains into use, as well as one that was aligned to my CPD and my current responsibility. Also, post-Brexit, regulations are evolving and we’ve moved from the EU’s Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs) to National Technical Specifications Notices (NTSNs.) There isn’t a lot of difference between them at the moment, but understanding any changes to those regulations was another reason to take the course.”

What was your experience of the course?

“It was a one-day course at the IMechE head office in London. The trainer, Phil Cordon, clearly had a lot of railway experience and had worked at British Rail, Alstom Transport and SNC-Lavalin Rail & Transit. He spent time understanding what each of the attendees do in their work and why we had chosen this course, so that he could tailor what he covered for our requirements.

“We went through examples of the authorisation process but it’s not really a subject area where you can do exercises to test knowledge. However, some of the examples around stakeholders resonated with me. I work with quite a few stakeholders and, though we work well together, we can sometimes have different challenges and different perspectives of what needs to be done. That’s because we have different responsibilities and requirements. It was a great opportunity for me to learn about the challenges they face, rather than just looking at everything from the operator’s point of view.

“Although I don’t manage people at the moment, my role at Merseyrail is evolving. It takes in everything from hazard analysis workshops to gathering design information and test reports so that we can demonstrate the trains are safe to be operated. It’s about knitting together many different areas, as part of the fleet authorisation process. These were all elements the course touched on, so it was ideal for me. We were given all the training materials and I quite regularly flick back and have a look at them.

“I walked away at the end of the day with a lot of knowledge and that felt great. It was also good to confirm I’d been doing the right things and going about my task in the right way. It’s given me a bit more confidence that I’ve been proceeding in the correct manner and I’ve not missed anything.”

What are the key reasons someone should attend Railway Vehicle Authorisation Process?

  1. “It’s ideal for anyone involved in the vehicle authorisation process as an operator, whether as a project manager, safety manager or engineering lead.”
  2. “If you are fairly new to rail and want to learn more about the hierarchy and application of EU and UK standards and legislation, this course is for you.”
  3. “If you are responsible for managing change within the railway sector, this course takes you through the steps you should follow.”

What’s been the impact?

“The course has given me more confidence with stakeholder management. For example, I was able to refer back to a challenging conversation I’d had with one of our stakeholders. It was about how we manage exporting hazards between the various parties during the CSM-RA process.

“I can now see I was looking for one thing and the stakeholder was looking for something else. I was asking the wrong question. I was concerned that we needed to make a change to a system, as it met the official standards but didn’t meet the requirements of our network.

“I now see how I could have managed that conversation better. Previously, I may not have been comfortable challenging stakeholders on certain things without having underpinned knowledge. I now have the confidence to ask the right things in the right way.

“Also, there’s a general assumption that all the Euro norms are mandatory standards.  The course revealed that’s not always the case. Understanding how Euro norms are not always mandatory unless they’re underpinned by an NTSN or a TSI was a bit of a eureka moment for me.

“A day’s delay on this project may cost thousands of pounds. So, the learnings I have gained which help avoid a delay mean the course will pay for itself. I’d recommend Railway Vehicle Authorisation Process to anybody who’s involved in major new fleet projects or major changes to the railway system.”

Three pieces of advice you’d give future attendees

  1. “I think it would be useful for candidates to have a clear understanding of what they want to achieve from the course. That way the tutor can tailor applicable elements to their needs.”
  2. “Read and familiarise yourself with RSSB guidance on the application of railway standards.”
  3. “Ensure you have completed a basic overview of CSM-RA or RIS 2700 before you start the course.”

What’s next?

“This course has allowed me to broaden my skills and improve my expertise and knowledge. I suppose I could take those skills and expertise to other industries, but I am not looking to do that. There are a lot of opportunities in rail to be involved in major projects. That’s interesting to me, so I am planning to stay in the sector.

“I also want to become chartered through continuing to improve my CPD, and there are a lot of opportunities within rail to continue learning.”

Railway Vehicle Authorisation Process

  • Duration:
    1 day
  • Location
    Coventry, London
  • CPD Hours:
  • UK-Spec:
    C, E