HS2

19.04.16

Last-minute platform switch led to collision at Plymouth which injured 35 people

The train collision at Plymouth station happened after last-minute decisions to switch which platforms the trains used because the lifts were closed, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) have said as they opened their investigation into the incident.

The accident occurred at 3.34pm on 3 April when train 2E68 drove into the back of train 1A91, which had stopped at platform 6 of the station to restock catering supplies.

Around 35 people, including the driver of one of the trains, were injured, some seriously.

Train 1A91 would normally have stopped at platform 7, but used platform 6 instead because platform 7’s lifts were closed for planned maintenance and staff needed lift access to restock. The train had been waiting since approximately 3pm, with only the driver on board, when the collision happened.

Train 2E68 from Penzance to Exeter, composed of two multiple-car diesel class 150 units with around 60 passengers on board, would normally have used platform 8, but the signaller decided to signal it into platform 6 to allow passengers changing trains to 1A91 to do so easily, again because of the lift closure. The signaller incorrectly estimated that there was enough room at the platform for both trains.

The driver of train 2E68 braked around three seconds before the collision when he saw how close the train was, but unable to prevent the train from colliding into 1A91 at 15mph. Many passengers were standing in order to get off the train, increasing their risk of injury.

It looks like the Plymouth accident will mean that figures for injuries on the UK’s rail network are already higher than 2015, when 29 people were injured in total, prompting the RSSB to praise the UK for having “one of the safest rail networks in Europe”.

RAIB will now investigate all aspects of the accident, including the actions of staff, signalling and platform working arrangements, the performance of the train and management factors, to find out how it was allowed to happen and what safety lessons the industry can learn.

(Image c. Dominic Parnell from PA Wire)

Comments

Stewart Rotherham   19/04/2016 at 11:51

If the platform road were signalled as two sections, the approaching driver would expect that the front part of the platform may be occupied. If it is not, should detonators have been deployed to protect the stationary train, if the signals were not doing so?

David Starbuck   19/04/2016 at 14:56

It seems a shame that a well intentioned decision by the signaller led to this incident. One more reason to crush initiative I guess will be the outcome of the enquiry.

Malcolm   19/04/2016 at 15:14

Not the first time a driver has not given a "calling on" signal sufficient respect and gone too fast. Will be interesting to see what the actual collision speed was when the station CCTV is downloaded and analysed. Doesn't happen very often (there must be several hundred scheduled movements a day on national network involving trains entering partially occupied platforms - this is the first for a long while). If you look at the volume of trips and falls on staircases, especially when luggage is involved, undoubtedly the correct decision by the from a overall safety point of view. Rather sad that on this occasion there was an error by both driver and signaler not checking there was enough room in the platform. Now we live in an age of secure signaler to train radio comms, possibly would be good practice for signalers to complement a "calling on" signal with a verbal message telling the driver for how far the route ahead is clear.

Malcolm   19/04/2016 at 17:17

Not the first time a driver has not given a "calling on" signal sufficient respect and gone too fast. Will be interesting to see what the actual collision speed was when the station CCTV is downloaded and analysed. Doesn't happen very often (there must be several hundred scheduled movements a day on national network involving trains entering partially occupied platforms - this is the first for a long while). If you look at the volume of trips and falls on staircases, especially when luggage is involved, undoubtedly the correct decision by the from a overall safety point of view. Rather sad that on this occasion there was an error by both driver and signaler not checking there was enough room in the platform. Now we live in an age of secure signaler to train radio comms, possibly would be good practice for signalers to complement a "calling on" signal with a verbal message telling the driver for how far the route ahead is clear.

Andrew Gwilt   19/04/2016 at 21:54

I do think that some of the people may of experienced some minor injuries and some have moderate injuries but luckily no one wasnt killed. Despite the train was travelling at slow speed (about 5mph) when it collided into another train and the extend damage to both trains is minor despite that the HST Class 43 took a big bang and the front end is damaged.

Chris M   20/04/2016 at 04:10

Andrew, the collision speed was 15mph not 5mph. This comes from the RAIB report and is repeated above, please read what it says. In fact after passing the calling-on signal the driver accelerated to 21mph, which was far too high a speed to enter an already occupied platform. The final report will indicate if there were mitigating factors for his/her actions.

Noam Bleicher   20/04/2016 at 10:02

The damage looks bad precisely because the crumple zones at the front of both vehicles worked as they should - absorbing the impact and deforming sacrificially to protect the driver's compartment from deformation and possible injury to the driver.

Denis R. Bowlby MIRSE (Retired)   20/04/2016 at 16:31

From the picture, train 2E68 was not as described, ie: 2 x 150 diesel units, but a Class 43 HST, no. 43160.

Graham Richardson   20/04/2016 at 23:53

Dennis - the article is correct. 2E68 was the 2x150 class diesel units. The HST was the 1A91 which was the one sat at the platform.

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