This paper arose from the work carried out for the Cullen/Uff Joint Inquiry into Train Protection Systems. It is concerned with the problem of evaluating the benefits of safety enhancements in order to avoid rare, but catastrophic accidents, and the role of Operations Research in the process. The problems include both input values and representation of outcomes. A key input is the value of life. This paper briefly discusses why the value of life might vary from incident to incident and reviews alternative estimates before producing a ‘best estimate’ for rail. When the occurrence of an event is uncertain, the normal method is to apply a single ‘expected’ value. This paper argues that a more effective method of representing such situations is through Monte-Carlo simulation and demonstrates the use of the methodology on a case study of the decision as to whether or not advanced train protection (ATP) should have been installed on a route to the west of London. This paper suggests that the output is more informative than traditional cost–benefit appraisals or engineering event tree approaches. It also shows that, unlike the results from utilizing the traditional approach, the value of ATP on this route would be positive over 50% of the time.