by Phil Marsh

RAIB published reports on two dangerous occurrences which bring serious ramifications for rail passengers

Published: 26th April 2015

Passenger injured after being trapped in train doors as train departs

There have been a couple of serious operating incidents on the railways in the last month the Rail Accident Incident Board (RAIB) reports. The first was when a steam charter train passed a signal at danger on the approach to Wootton Bassett junction west of Swindon on March 7 last.

RAIB is investigating the incident that occurred at 1725hrs on that date when the 1635hrs steam charter service from Bristol Temple Meads to Southend passed a signal at danger on the approach to Wootton Bassett junction. The train subsequently came to a stand across the junction and nobody was hurt and there was no collision or derailment. The signal passed at danger was protecting the previous train which had just passed through the junction.

The train which passed signal at danger consisted of steam locomotive number 34067 ‘Tangmere’, and 13 coaches. RAIB’s preliminary examination has shown that the train was approaching the signal at 59 mph when it passed over the temporary warning magnet associated with a temporary speed restriction. This magnet created both an audible and visual warning in the locomotive’s cab but as the driver did not acknowledge this warning within 2.7 seconds, the AWS system on the locomotive automatically applied the train’s brakes. This brake application should have resulted in the train being brought to a stand. In these circumstances, the railway rule book requires that the driver immediately contact the signaller.

The RAIB has found evidence that the driver of 1Z67 did not bring the train to a stand and contact the signaller after experiencing this brake application. Evidence shows that the driver and fireman instead took an action which cancelled the effect of the AWS braking demand after a short period and a reduction in train speed of only around 8 mph. The action taken also had the effect of making subsequent AWS or TPWS brake demands ineffective.

Shortly after passing the AWS magnet for the TSR, the train passed signal SN43, which was at caution. Although the AWS warning associated with this signal was acknowledged by the driver, the speed of the train was not then reduced appropriately on the approach to the next signal, SN45, which was at danger. Because of the earlier actions of the driver and fireman, the TPWS equipment associated with signal SN45 was unable to control the speed of the train on approach to this signal.

As train 1Z67 approached signal SN45, the driver saw that it was at danger and fully applied the train’s brakes. However, by this point there was insufficient distance remaining to bring the train to a stand before it reached the junction beyond SN45. The train subsequently stopped, standing on both the crossovers and the up and down Badminton lines, at around 17:26 hrs. The signalling system had already set the points at the junction in anticipation of the later movement of 1Z67 across it; this meant that no damage was sustained to either the train or the infrastructure as a result of the SPAD.

The RAIB has found no evidence of any malfunction of the signalling, AWS or TPWS equipment involved in the incident.

The RAIB’s investigation will consider the factors that contributed to signal SN45 being passed at danger, including the position of the temporary AWS magnet associated with the TSR. The investigation will also examine the factors that influenced the actions of the train crew, the adequacy of the safety systems installed on the locomotive and the safety management arrangements.

As a result of this incident and the published findings from RAIB, Network Rail issued a suspension notice on April 2nd, to West Coast Railways, (WCR) the train operator concerned. This took effect at midnight on April 3rd which meant WCR were unable to operate any trains.

They said:

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Network Rail has issued a suspension notice to West Coast Railway Company Limited (WCR) as a result of ongoing safety concerns. “This decision has not been taken lightly, however safety will always be our number one priority. “We have set out a number of actions to address the safety concerns raised and will continue to work with WCR to ensure their services can run safely in future.”

WCR published a statement saying:

Passenger safety is our number one priority. A recent breach of safety regulations involving one of our trains crossing a red light has led to discussions by both parties to establish how this happened and more importantly the preventative measures in place to ensure it cant happen again.

Although no one was injured in any way, West Coast Railways consider this to be sufficient to carry out a full internal enquiry with the support of Network Rail and at this time will not be running trains under their current operator licence.

It is our intention, where possible, to run our trips as normal, using the licence and services of other train operators, and to the previously advised times and destinations. Should there be any changes, we will advise passengers as soon as possible. Further updates will be posted to reflect any changes.

Safety is a primary importance to both West Coast Railways and Network Rail and as such both parties MUST be absolutely satisfied with the safety measures in place to prevent any such future happenings, through continued discussions and when both parties are satisfied it is hoped that West Coast Railways will resume operation under licence.

Serious accident at West Wickham station

The second incident resulted in a serious accident at West Wickham (Kent) station on April 10 as a passenger left a train and became trapped in the train doors at about 1135hrs. The train was the 1100hrs Southeastern service from London Cannon Street to Hayes (Kent) and a passenger’s bag became trapped in the closing doors of a train from which she was alighting. She was dragged under the train as it departed and consequently suffered life-changing injuries.

The train was formed of two four-car Class 465 units coupled together and the doors involved were the rear passenger doors on the last vehicle of the leading 465 unit. The train was being driven by a trainee driver, under the supervision of an instructor driver.

At West Wickham station, train drivers are responsible for checking that it is safe for the train to depart after the doors have been closed as the station platforms are unstaffed. To assist train drivers view the side of the train, CCTV monitors are positioned next to the stopping position of the driving cab to enable the driver to see the train in the platform.

A passenger alighted from the third coach of the leading unit of the train and shortly afterwards, the passenger involved in the accident opened the rear door on the fourth coach of the leading unit and started to alight. Before the doors were fully open, they, together with the door that had already been opened on the third coach, began to close. Although the passenger was able to get through the doors, the strap of a bag she was carrying became trapped in the closing doors.

Neither the trainee driver nor the instructor saw that a person was trapped by the train doors before the train was driven away from the platform.

While the passenger was still attempting to free the strap from between the doors, the train began to move and she was pulled along the platform before losing her balance. The passenger was then dragged off the platform and under the train, falling onto the track between the fourth and fifth vehicles.

Our investigation will consider the circumstances of the accident, including the design and operation of the doors, the associated control system and the actions of those involved.

Preliminary testing conducted by RAIB has revealed the potential for passengers to be misled, by the ‘open doors’ button remaining illuminated after the driver has initiated the door closure sequence, into thinking that the doors will open for sufficient time for them to safely join or alight from the train (particularly where the hustle alarm is not sounding because no doors have been opened in that coach). In such cases the door can then suddenly close, with considerable force and without warning, onto a passenger.

For this reason, RAIB has issued advice to all train operating companies urging them to check for the presence of this design feature in their own rolling stock. Where the same design feature is identified, RAIB has advised that consideration be given to ways of reducing this risk, including the potential to change the door control system. It has also advised that operators re-brief their train crew and station dispatchers of the need for a final check that the side of the train is clear before the train starts its journey.

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