What is the RAIU?
The Railway Accident Investigation Unit (RAIU) is the independent railway accident investigation organisation for Ireland.
The RAIU is concerned with the investigation of accidents and incidents on:
- The national railway network;
- The DART;
- The LUAS;
- Industrial railways;
- Heritage railways.
The purpose of an investigation by the RAIU is to improve railway safety by establishing in so far as possible the causes of an accident with a view to making safety recommendations for the avoidance of similar accidents in the future.
The RAIU’s investigations are entirely independent and are focused on railway safety improvement. It is not the purpose of an RAIU investigation to attribute blame or liability.
Why was the RAIU formed?
The RAIU was established by the Railway Safety Act 2005 as amended by Statutory Instrument No. 430 of 2020 for the independent investigation of railway accidents. The establishment of the RAIU also fulfils Ireland’s duty to provide an independent rail accident investigation body under the European Railway Safety Directive (2004/49/EC).
How is the RAIU organised?
The RAIU is independent of all other railway industry bodies and all prosecution bodies. Although forming part of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Chief Investigator is independent in, and is solely responsible for the conduct of investigations and publication of reports on matter concerning railway incidents and accidents.
What accidents do the RAIU investigate?
The RAIU will investigate all serious accidents (defined as any train collision or derailment of trains resulting in):
• The death of one person;
• Serious injuries to five or more people;
• Extensive damage to rolling stock, the infrastructure or the environment.
The RAIU may also investigate and report on accidents and incidents which under slightly different conditions might have led to serious accidents. The RAIU may not carry out a formal investigation where it is unlikely that any safety recommendations would be made, even if one or all over the above criteria are involved.
Who notifies the RAIU about an accident?
When an accident happens, the obligation to notify the RAIU is on those railway industry bodies (railway infrastructure managers, railway operators or maintainers) whose staff or property is involved in an accident or incident.
RAIU response to accidents
If an accident occurs the RAIU will decide the level of response. This will be influenced by whether:
• An investigation is mandated by law;
• There is important information at the scene;
• The accident is part of a trend of incidents or accidents;
• There are safety issues at stake.
Who carries out RAIU investigations?
The RAIU has appointed and trained Investigators recruited from the railway industry and other investigation bodies. They are experienced and trained in various railway skill sets and investigation techniques. All RAIU investigators carry an RAIU warrant card.
Powers of the RAIU
The powers of RAIU Investigators, and the framework for investigating and reporting accidents, are set out in the Railway Safety Act 2005 as amended by Statutory Instrument No. 430 of 2020. RAIU Investigators may:
• Enter railway property, land or vehicles;
• Seize relevant evidence relating to the accident and make records;
• Require access to and disclosure of records and information;
• Require persons to answer questions and provide information relevant to the investigation.
What happens at the accident site?
Following an accident, a number of investigations may be started by different organisations. The objectives of these investigations are different. The RAIU provides a focus and lead for the technical investigation into the causes and consequences of the accident. However, the roles of the Garda, Health and Safety Authority and the Commission for Railway Regulation (formally known as the Railway Safety Commission) are not changed by the existence of the RAIU. These agencies may investigate to find out if there has been a breach of the relevant law. The RAIU’s investigations normally involve investigators visiting the accident scene, assessing what has happened and gathering the evidence needed to find the cause. As part of collecting evidence from the scene, the RAIU investigators may take statements from people who witnessed the accident; or have any other information on events leading up to the accident.
What evidence is the RAIU looking for?
Evidence about the cause of the accident may come from a number of different sources including:
• The signalling system;
• Other infrastructure items;
• Maintenance; and
• Design and training documents.
The RAIU publishes an investigation report into all RAIU investigations and this is normally published within one year of the accident on the RAIU website.