Railway safety and crime

11.04.19

Train ‘fortunate’ to avoid collision after breaking through barriers at a level crossing, RAIB reports

The RAIB has published a raft of safety measures after a train ran onto a level crossing and broke through the barriers in what could have been a fatal incident.

The engineering train was approaching a level crossing at Penrhyn in Wales on 6 January 2019 and did not stop, striking the closed upper gate, pushing through it and coming to a stand in front of both carriageways of the road.

There were no injuries and only minor damage caused to the gates, but the RAIB has published its independent safety digest as a collision with a road vehicle could have been fatal and its was “fortunate” that there were no vehicles on the crossing at the time of the incident.

The train driver applied the locomotive brakes with the intention of stopping short of the gate before realising the wheels had locked and the train was continuing to move down the gradient.

The vacuum brake was then applied, but this was “insufficient” to stop the 23-tonne train in time.

The RAIB’s investigation found that the brakes “were not applied until the last moment,” and witness evidence indicated that the railway was contaminated with debris and road salt.

The driver carried out what he said was the custom and practice of the drivers he had trained with, despite this going against the local instructions in the operating procedures and clear signage adjacent to the line.

The RAIB said many rules developing following past incidents may have been forgotten as time passes and the reason why they exist might not be obvious, but the “important of complying with it does not diminish.”

The report said the accident serves as a reminder of why it’s important to follow railway rules and operating instructions, and warned that in this case the consequences of a collision could have been fatal as drivers would have gotten very little warning due to the curvature of the railway line.

It said ensuring trains stop at a ‘Stop’ board before a level crossing is a “sensible and realistic precaution against inadvertent overruns,” adding that it was important for organisations to have measures in place to ensure unsafe ‘customs and practice’ have not developed.

A number of similar incidents have occurred at the level crossing over the past 30 years with the most recent coming in 2007 when a train ran into the gates due to its wheels locking, with contamination again cited as the cause.

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