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5 Minutes With… Paul Daly, CEO of the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board.

Posted by Dave Songer on Mar 22, 2019

Paul Daly, CEO of the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board"Digital and advances in technology and work practices are vital to keep the industry competitive against other forms of transport, but they cannot come at the expense of the safety." 

For good reason, ensuring the safety of the rail network is a key priority. As shown last last year when we spoke to Chris Lawrence from the UK’s RSSB, who said that aligning the services it provides relating to safety, health and wellbeing standards were primary areas of focus. So, it’s with great pleasure that SmartRail World announces it caught up Paul Daly from Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB) in Australia, another country with an enviable safety record on the tracks.

Paul is the RISSB chief executive officer and he spoke to Dave Songer about the role technology plays in keeping the tracks safe in the vast country, what keeps him motivated to work in the rail industry, the importance of working closely with the industry as a whole and what advice he would pass on to his younger self.

Dave Songer (DS): CEO of the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board sounds like a great role and a lot of responsibility – what does the job involve?

Paul Daly (PD): Being the CEO of the RISSB is indeed a great role with many responsibilities and challenges. Very much like the Rail Safety and Standards Board in England, RSSB is charged with developing the standards, codes of practice and guidelines, as well as maintaining the Australian Rail Risk Model for the Australian rail industry. My job involves bringing all the industry stakeholders together, working with them to develop the products, and then ensuring that the quality and timeliness of these products meets with industry expectations. It’s also my role to work closely with industry as one of the two main arms of the unique, co-regulatory environment that exists in Australia. In addition to the products mentioned above, RISSB also delivers training and education, conferences and forums as well as a young professionals programme called Horizons. Managing all this and ensuring that RISSB delivers products that keep the rail industry safe, efficient and reliable keeps me pretty busy.

DS: What are the main challenges for the industry around safety? Have these changed over the years?

RISSB LogoPD: Without doubt the main challenge for the industry is ensuring that safety levels are maintained as the use of technology blossoms across all sectors. Digital disruption and advances in technology and work practices are vital to keep the industry competitive against other forms of transport, but they cannot come at the expense of the safety of the people working in, or travelling on, the rail networks. RISSB is very pleased to be hosting the International Railway Safety Council conference in Perth in October this year, where we will be inviting the world’s foremost rail safety experts to come and discuss this very topic.

DS: You’ve been involved in the rail industry since 2011 – what do you most like about working in it?

PD: As cliched as it sounds, it’s the people. Rail in Australia is full of quietly achieving experts who go about their day job and assist RISSB (@TheRISSB) in developing the Standards that keep the rail industry safe. I am fortunate enough to travel Australia to speak with many of the 200,000 people who work in the industry in Australia, and I am constantly blown away by not only their wealth of knowledge, but also their willingness to share this knowledge with others in the industry in the name of safety.

DS: What’s been your biggest professional challenge?

PD: Managing the expectations of an entire industry. Whether it be in a previous role where I was negotiating enterprise agreements on behalf of industry (before pattern bargaining was illegal) or in this role where you have many requirements and expectations from across the industry on what a standard will (or won’t) say. Getting buy-in from the industry, understanding their needs and then working together to arrive at a location that everyone is happy with is always a challenge, but it’s one I deal with day to day and relish the opportunity to do so.

SafeRail Website Logo-1To learn more about the kind of issues covered in this interview and many more, SmartRail World hosts a range of events in Europe and the US that you can be a part of. The next, SafeRail, is taking place in Washington D.C. on May 14th-15th. 

Visit the show website to see the agenda, speakers and also to register.

DS: If you could offer your younger self any pre-career advice, what would that be?

PD: Do your homework, establish your position, and then back yourself. I have found throughout my career that for every argument or position you put forward, someone will be happy to put forward the exact opposite. However, if you have done your research and understand the implications of your position then you should not doubt yourself or what you are seeking. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open to compromise, but you also shouldn’t ‘give away the farm’ because someone holds a different view.

DS: Excellent advice, Paul. On the subject of safety, to what extent would you say technology helps the RISSB?

PD: I don’t think technology helps or hinders RISSB in the area of safety. Yes, we do use a variety of technological advancements to assist us in developing our products – such as moving our Priority Planning Forum from a one-day workshop in a capital city to putting it online, which resulted in an increase in participation of more than 200%. RISSB’s biggest challenge is keeping up with technology, and not letting standards be a blocker to technology. That’s why this year the RISSB has undertaken development of the technology roadmap, as well as conducting its inaugural Technology and Innovation Conference. These two activities alone will enable RISSB to see what’s coming down the pipeline and ensure that standards are ready for implementation.

DS: Lots to look forward to, then. Is there a particular type of rail-related technology that really interests you?

New Rio TintoPD: Automation is getting very advanced now, and the operation by Rio Tinto of their fully autonomous trains is unlike anything you can see anywhere else in the world. That and drones! I love the fact that drivers can now use drones to check a 2km+ long consist (set of vehicles under multiple unit control), especially in areas of Australia where temperatures can exceed 50 oC.

I think automation is inevitable in passenger rail. Sydney Metro is in the final stages of commissioning for their new driverless trains to operate in the city.

DS: What are the RISSB’s key priorities for 2019 and beyond?

PD: RISSB’s key priorities for 2019 are to maintain the development of its products based on the requirements of the industry, work closely with the industry, governments and all stakeholders as a leader in the coregulation space, and to enhance the Australian Rail Risk Model to ensure users are working with the most up-to-date data available.

DS: What’s your favourite rail journey – anywhere in the world – and why?

PD: My favourite rail journey has to be the Eurostar from London to Paris. In Australia we don’t have high speed rail (yet), so to catch a train in the heart of London, go under the English Channel and then arrive in the heart of Paris in just over two hours, travelling at speeds of up to 300 kph was an amazing experience for me. That said, on my bucket list is catching the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth – spending three nights and four days travelling from one side of this great country to the other would be a remarkable journey.

DS: It would indeed, Paul. Thanks so much for taking part.


Follow this link to read SmartRail World's other 5 Minutes With… interviews.



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Dave Songer

Written by Dave Songer

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