Elizabeth Line Ricardo

Elizabeth Line: Ricardo successfully completes UK rail’s ‘largest and most complex’ assessment role

24 May 2022


The opening of London’s Elizabeth Line to passengers on May 24th 2022 brings to an end one of the largest and most complex assessments ever performed by Ricardo Certification.

As the appointed Approved Body (ApBo) for the construction of the central tunnelled section, our experts received more than 6,000 evidence submissions – including design drawings, safety cases and hazard records – which have been assessed against an extensive range of technical specifications. Our assessments gave confidence to stakeholders that all legal requirements were being met as construction progressed.

In addition to the ApBo role, we were also the central section’s appointed Designated Body (DeBo) - to assess compliance with the UK’s National Technical Rules – and the Assessment Body (AsBo) for both Crossrail and Rail for London Infrastructure, the Infrastructure Manager of the central section. As the AsBo, it was our responsibility to determine whether procedures for managing hazards and evaluating risk were compliant with the Common Safety Method on Risk Evaluation and Assessment Regulation, a mandatory requirement for major rail projects.

“By joining at such an early stage, we brought consistency whilst building extensive knowledge of the core infrastructure.”

“We are proud to have supported the Elizabeth Line from detailed design to the launch of passenger services,” says Simon Whitehouse, Ricardo’s UK Certification Director.

“By joining the programme at such an early stage, we brought consistency to evidence assessment whilst building an extensive knowledge base of the core infrastructure. The payback being we could complete a complex approvals process as efficiently as possible, ensuring the UK regulator was satisfied that more than 1,400 specified technical requirements had been met”.

With much of the assessment work now concluded, our teams could prepare the Approved Body Files and Safety Assessment Reports required by the Office Rail and Road, the UK’s National Safety Authority, ahead of issuing authorisation to commence passenger service.

Safeguarding the process during transition to post-Brexit regulations

An ApBo is an organisation accredited to assess railway sub-systems against the UK’s National Technical Specification Notices (NTSNs). These are the detailed physical, operational and maintenance requirements for mainline railway infrastructure in the UK – such as platform length, track layout, control command and signalling – that also extend across matters such as accessibility, safety and environmental protection.

The NTSNs were adopted in January 2021 - when the UK formally left the EU - and are broadly analogous to the Technical Standards for Interoperability (TSIs) that apply to mainline railways in EU member states.

When Ricardo joined the Crossrail project in 2012, it was as the appointed Notified Body, with responsibility of assessing Crossrail’s compliance with the EU’s TSIs. Our role transferred to that of ApBo once Crossrail switched to abiding by the NTSNs upon completion of the Brexit process.

Our experience of the original TSI requirements – which influenced so much of Crossrail’s designs and construction – proved invaluable for ensuring a smooth transition to the UK’s new regulatory regime so late in the programme.

Indeed, Crossrail had originally been one of the first large-scale railway projects in the UK to be built in accordance with the EU’s specifications, so our teams had already performed a ‘pathfinder’ role for the project, providing feedback to the industry’s various technical forums about Crossrail’s experiences of applying the stipulated standards and assisting with the development of specific Technical Rules when necessary.

Crossrail’s assessment experience will prove an important legacy

A valuable legacy from this 10-year assessment assignment lies in the way future mainline railway programmes in the UK – such as HS2 – will benefit from Crossrail’s experiences. The technical standards, for example, are more honed towards the practicalities of the rail environment. Meanwhile, workshops hosted by Ricardo for Crossrail and its supply chain mean there is now a greater understanding of the new regulatory landscape and its implications.

Crossrail also highlights opportunities to bring greater efficiency to future assurance processes. As the single ApBo, DeBo and AsBo provider, we could accumulate a detailed knowledge bank of the railway and its sub-systems, providing continuity as suppliers joined and left the programme.

But our joint roles also supported a transition towards a ‘progressive assurance’ approach. With a single competent body in place so early in the programme, certification could be managed as works progressed – such as when each station was completed – rather than waiting until the later stages when rectification work could prove more costly.

Ricardo is proud to have been entrusted with these assurance roles throughout the design and construction of the Elizabeth Line and believe London has gained a world-class railway - a mainline railway operating at metro-style frequencies - befitting of its status as a global city.

Elizabeth line during construction with 2 people walking between barriers on an underground station platform. One is wearing a ricardo logo on their hi-viz jacket.