Published: 17th February 2015
Two rare operating incidents took place on our railways within 48 hours at the end of January. A freight train damaged the platform at Moston station on January 28 and a train caught fire at Windsor on January 30.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is investigating both incidents and will eventually publish their findings and any recommendations as to how to prevent repeat incidents.
The first incident resulted in a platform alteration when at about 620am on 28 January, a Northern Rail passenger train hit a dislodged coping stone on the platform edge at 68 mph as it passed through Moston, located between Manchester Victoria and Rochdale.
The train, the 612am service from Manchester Victoria to Leeds, suffered minor damage and nobody was hurt and the train remained on the tracks.
Many of todays’ trains carry a forward facing camera in the cab and the train involved filmed the displaced coping stones and associated debris on the track with its camera. Railway data recording systems suggest that the damage was done 14 minutes earlier by a passing freight train running between Warrington Arpley and Doncaster operated by DB Schenker.
RAIB’s preliminary examination has identified that two incorrectly stowed container fixings (hinged spigots) on the rear wagon of this train struck the platform and displaced the coping stones.
This type of hinged spigot is attached to a bar on the side of the wagon and can be slid along the bar to accommodate different sized containers. These should be stowed after being rotated to rest in a locating recess on top of the wagon.
The investigation will no doubt be looking at whether these were correctly positioned when the train departed or if they moved during the journey because when they hit the platform edge, they were hanging down on the sides of the vehicle and projecting beyond the usual wagon width.
Railway safety standards define both the permitted width of wagons and the minimum permitted spacing between a platform and the nearest rail of the associated track. This is the loading gauge and rail vehicles are built within defined dimensions while track and platform edges are maintained to ensure that the prescribed distance between them exists.
A gauging survey by Network Rail (NR) in July 2014 had shown that the platform at Moston was closer to the track than permitted by these standards. NR had not taken remedial action to either slew the track or cut back the platform edge and appears to be a contributory factor in this case as were the incorrectly stowed spigots that hit the platform edge. Markers are located along platform faces to inform maintenance staff what the various dimensions should be between the rail and platform.
RAIB will look at why the spigots were incorrectly stowed and why parts of the platform were closer to the track than standards allow and NR’s management of the platform’s position relative to the track.
The RAIB is investigating a fire that caused serious damage to a train near Windsor on the evening of 30 January. It was the753pm South West Trains (SWT) service from Windsor & Eton Riverside to Waterloo and had travelled about 400 metres after when a small bang was heard under the sixth carriage of the ten-carriage train. This was followed by about five seconds of severe sparking and flashing on the class 458/5 electric multiple unit train. It was travelling at about 15 mph but stopped immediately.
Smoke entered the carriages through ventilators but fortunately there were only two passengers in the sixth carriage who were quickly moved to another part of the train. The train had 11 passengers spread out over the 10 carriages. None of these were hurt, but the guard was taken to hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.
The guard went from the rear of the train to the affected carriage to investigate as did the driver. They could see smoke was still coming from below the sixth carriage so the driver returned to the front cab and contacted the signaller by radio to ask for the electric power to be switched off (an isolation). While he was doing this, the floor of the sixth carriage was penetrated by fire and smoke quickly filled the carriage.
The guard, assisted by the crew of another train evacuated the passengers onto the track and escorted them back to the station walking along the track. The fire brigade attended and confirmed by 850pm that the fire was out.
RAIB’s initial examination established that the fire originated in severe arcing in a junction box under the carriage floor, where power cables from the collector shoes on either side on the train are connected to the main power cable (‘bus line’) which runs along the train. The arcing had burnt through the floor of the carriage, and had also destroyed parts of the structural members of the carriage body.
RAIB’s investigation will focus on the cable joint in this junction box, and how this joint was designed and assembled. It will also examine how the train’s structure and equipment, and the people in it, might have been protected from the consequences of a failure of this nature.
This type of train is one of the first to be converted from two different types of train and it is likely that this will be part of the investigation.