Railway safety and crime

16.08.18

Staff scramble to safety from 125mph train in near-miss due to ‘unsafe and unofficial’ working practices

A group of track workers narrowly escaped a devastating incident after just moving clear of a 125mph train on the East Coast Main Line (ECML).

The incident occurred on the morning of 5 October last year at Egmanton level crossing, between Newark North Gate and Retford on the mainline.

Staff members are pictured maintaining the line as a full-speed passenger train was approaching the level crossing on the Down Main Line at 125mph. When the driver saw the group, he sounded the train’s warning horn, yet saw no response from the staff.

It was only a few seconds later when the driver gave a number of short blasts on the train horn that the track workers noticed the oncoming train— just three seconds before it reached them.

The staff had been working under an “unsafe and unofficial” system of work, set up by the Person in Charge (PiC), according to the RAIB. Instead of using the standard procedure of practice with an oncoming train using the Train Operated Warning System (TOWS) by moving his team well clear of the line, the PiC used an audible warning as a cue for the lookout – a system which broke down when the PiC and lookout became distracted and forgot about the warning procedure.

It is also believed that none of the team involved questioned the unsafe system of work that was in place, possibly due to fears they could lose work as contractors if they challenged the PiC.

Chief inspector of rail accidents Simon French explained that when the PiC in charge of a team is both a strong personality and an employee of the client, it can be “particularly hard” for contract workers to challenge unsafe behaviour.

“Both the person in charge and team members became distracted, and the result was that three of them found themselves jumping clear of a train travelling at 125mph with just one second to spare. This came so close to being a major tragedy,” added French.

The RAIB made three recommendations: strengthening safety leadership behaviour on site and reducing potentially dangerous rule-breaking by those who control safe systems of work on the site; mitigating the potentially adverse effect that client/contractor relationships can have on the integrity of the ‘Worksafe’ procedure; and clarifying to staff how the TOWS should be used.

French commented: “There have been too many near misses in recent years. It takes effective leadership and a positive safety culture to create a working environment in which everyone can be confident that safety will come first.”

Just last week, an investigation found that two bridge workers narrowly avoided a devastating collision with a train travelling at more than 70mph in Dundee.

Enjoying RTM? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Image credit: RAIB, LNER

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

£2.5m government funding set to improve CrossCountry

24/02/2020£2.5m government funding set to improve CrossCountry

Announced today (Feb 24th) by the Rail Minister a £2.5m investment is set to benefit passengers across CrossCountry rail services. Fro... more >
Ep 8 Safely shaping a sustainable railway, Martin Frobisher

20/02/2020Ep 8 Safely shaping a sustainable railway, Martin Frobisher

Martin Frobisher, Group director, Safety, Technical & Engineering and Network Rail, joins us in the RTM Podcast room to discuss the renewable... more >
Southend Victoria line disruption following a landslip at Billericay

20/02/2020Southend Victoria line disruption following a landslip at Billericay

Railway tracks on the Southend Victoria line, between Billericay and Wickford, have been damaged following a landslip. Ballast, the stones that h... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Maximising efficiency requires investment in data, but it’s rewards for rail could be extensive

14/11/2019Maximising efficiency requires investment in data, but it’s rewards for rail could be extensive

Rail Technology Magazine’s Matt Roberts explains the significant role data can play within the future development of the rail industry. Standing as a cornerstone of the UK transport network, the rail industry is forever striving to innovate and maximise efficiency in all aspects of its work. Data is just one such way of achievi... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

comment

The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >
Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

02/07/2019Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

Smart electrification is the way to boost clean energy resources, argues Leo Murray, director at 10:10 Climate Action. Contractors are clear... more >
Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

02/07/2019Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

The TCR Midlands conference is only days away and tickets are going fast for the sector event of the year at the Vox Conference Centre in Birming... more >

rail industry focus

View all News

interviews

Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he wo... more >