Railway safety and crime


Child faced with ‘life-threatening’ danger after nearly falling through toilet floor

An incident in June 2017 which saw a child nearly fall through the missing floor of a train toilet could have been life-threatening, says the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB).

The accident occurred on a South Devon Railway (SDR) train while a mother and her three-year-old child were travelling from Totnes to Buckfastleigh, with the vehicle reaching around 20mph.

This week’s report from the safety investigator explains that the child opened the door to go into the toilet and would have fallen through the missing floor onto the equipment and track below if not for his mother catching his arm.

Inspectors found that repairs had been carried out on the train in April, forcing engineers to remove the flooring panel in order to get to certain sections of the undercarriage.

Rather than replace the floor, SDR managers decided to allow the carriage back into service after securing the door to the compartment and putting signage in place.

The problem came when the door slowly became less secure over a period of time, allowing the woman and child to enter the toilet.

In the report, inspectors explain: “The risk associated with the absence of the toilet floor was not sufficiently appreciated nor adequately managed after the carriage was allowed to enter service.”

Simon French, chief inspector of rail accidents, added: “Britain’s heritage railways carry over nine million passengers every year. People are travelling for pleasure, and they don’t expect any nasty surprises during their journey.

“When a mother, enjoying a happy day out with a small child, is suddenly faced with a life-threatening hazard, it is important to find out what went wrong. A door opened – and she had to grab hold of her little boy to stop him falling through a gaping hole in the floor of the carriage.”

In response to the findings, an SDR spokesperson commented: “The SDR accepts that safety on a moving train was badly compromised on this isolated occasion and which could have resulted in serious injury to a female passenger and her young son.

“We regret that this incident took place and apologised at the time, and do so again now, to the lady and the family involved for the trauma which they suffered.

“As we have stated from the outset, something clearly went wrong as evidenced by the incident having taken place – it simply should not have happened.”

The operator said it had been working closely with the RAIB and the ORR to make the relevant necessary improvements highlighted by the investigation.

Top image: RAIB

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here.


John Grant   02/02/2018 at 12:25

"after" in the headline should surely read "before" or "when"

Andrew Gwilt   03/02/2018 at 00:54

Hope the poor child does recover from the accident. I feel deeply sorry for the child and the mother & father.

Add your comment


rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Tram passengers demand better value for money from services

21/03/2018Tram passengers demand better value for money from services

  Satisfaction with value for money for tram passengers has dropped slightly, the latest Tram Passenger Survey has revealed. Fare-payi... more >
West of England to get £9.45bn economic boost from new rail partnership plan

21/03/2018West of England to get £9.45bn economic boost from new rail partnership plan

Rail companies across the west of England have set out a long-term plan for the region’s railway, which will boost the economy by £9.45... more >
First Virgin Azuma trains arrive in UK after two-month journey from Japan

21/03/2018First Virgin Azuma trains arrive in UK after two-month journey from Japan

Two brand new Hitachi trains completed their two month journey from Japan yesterday, arriving at Teesport, Middlesborough. The two five-car trai... 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

How biometrics can help improve health and safety measures on railway construction projects

20/03/2018How biometrics can help improve health and safety measures on railway construction projects

In this article biometric identity, time and attendance specialists Donseed look at how biometric technology is already starting to enhance health and safety measures on railway construction projects. Advances in technology are starting to transform the way in which the rail network in the UK is managed, operated and maintained. There is ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Smart Ticketing: The way ahead

13/03/2018Smart Ticketing: The way ahead

Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), runs through the nationwide progress in rolling out ... more >
A benchmark year for HS2

13/03/2018A benchmark year for HS2

Jim Crawford, managing director of Phase 1 at HS2 Ltd, discusses the many critical activities set to take place this year as the mammoth high-spe... more >
The North has a plan

13/03/2018The North has a plan

There has always been an incredible thirst for change in the north. Now, there is finally a plan robust and forward-thinking enough to make it ha... more >
EWR: Getting it right

13/03/2018EWR: Getting it right

Peter Austin, delivery director at East West Rail Company (EWRco), argues that completing the link between Oxford and Cambridge as quickly as pos... more >

rail industry focus

  • 08/12/2017A game changer for Midland Metro

    The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) updates RTM’s Luana Salles on the latest projects taking place across the growing Midland Metro...
  • 09/11/2017Testing tomorrow's technology today

    David Brazier, site manager and area sales manager for the UK & Ireland at OMICRON electronics, tells RTM’s Luana Salles about the major...
  • 09/11/2017What next for safety?

    As rail businesses edge towards their target of zero injuries, improving safety performance can plateau. Amey’s sector director for rail, Lee...
View all News


Transforming travel in the north west

06/02/2018Transforming travel in the north west

RTM’s Josh Mines talks to Robin Davis, head of new trains at TransPennine Express (TPE), about the huge rolling stock change journey the co... more >