Railway safety and crime


Clapham Junction disaster lessons are ‘fading’ from rail sector following London Waterloo collision last year

Errors made during the derailment of a London Waterloo train last year showed lessons learned from the 1988 Clapham Junction disaster were “fading” from the rail industry, the rail accident investigator has found.

The collision of the 05:42am train with a stationary engineering train on 15 August 2017 led to no injuries, however the derailment caused severe disruption, and the mistakes made were similar to those that led to the crash in 1988 that killed 35 people.

The RAIB report found that the passenger train last year was diverted away from its intended route by a set of incorrectly positioned points of track as a result of “uncontrolled wiring added to the signalling system.”

The uncontrolled wiring was originally added to deal with an issue discovered whilst testing signalling system modification, resulting in a problem where the test equipment design process did not allow for alterations to be made after the test equipment was designed.

The RAIB also noted that witness evidence showed that the functional tester—the staff member with the role of testing the equipment— had a “poor understanding” of how testing processes interacted with design and installation processes, and “did not fully consider” the potential consequences of adding the wiring.

Chief inspector of Rail Accidents Simon French said the mistakes made during the testing process was “concerning” that some of the industrial changes made during the Clapham Junction disaster were not reflected during their investigation last year.

The immediate cause of the 1988 disaster (found in an accident inquiry chaired by Anthony Hidden QC) was due to poor working practice by a signalling technician that caused an incorrect signal to be displayed to the train driver, who took a dangerous bend and collided with trains ahead.

“The disastrous collision at Clapham Junction on 12 December 1988, in which 35 people died and 415 were injured, was a turning point in the history of Britain’s railways,” said French.

“The immediate cause of the accident was poor working practice by a signalling technician, and the subsequent public inquiry into the accident highlighted serious deficiencies in the management of safety, particularly around the design, modification, testing and commissioning of signalling systems.”

French went on to say that some of the people involved in the signalling work connected with upgrading Waterloo station and its approach tracks “did not keep proper records” of temporary works or ensure that additional temporary wiring was shown on the design documents.

He added: “We are recommending that Network Rail takes action to develop and reinforce a positive safety culture within the signal engineering profession as a whole, by putting in place processes to educate present and future staff about how and why the standards have been developed, and why these things matter.

“It’s also important to give people the skills to recognise and deal with non-compliant behaviour, whether that behaviour is by themselves or their colleagues. I believe that this accident at Waterloo starkly demonstrates why the lessons of Clapham should never be forgotten.”

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

Image credit: RAIB


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Government’s role in new passenger-centric railway ‘will have to change’, says Williams Review lead

21/03/2019Government’s role in new passenger-centric railway ‘will have to change’, says Williams Review lead

The man leading the Williams Rail Review has warned that the government’s role in the UK railways “will have to change” as the ... more >
Government promises to look ‘very carefully’ at £218m bid for second Chelmsford station

21/03/2019Government promises to look ‘very carefully’ at £218m bid for second Chelmsford station

The government will look “very carefully” at a £218m funding bid for a new railway station in Chelmsford, Theresa May has said.... more >
Carillion-bound boss appointed to lead Kier

20/03/2019Carillion-bound boss appointed to lead Kier

Kier has appointed Andrew Davies as its new chief executive, two months after the building contractor ousted Hayden Mursell on the back of debt i... 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

The West Midlands 30-year strategy

19/03/2019The West Midlands 30-year strategy

Malcolm Holmes, executive director of West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE), outlines the West Midlands Rail Investment Strategy 2018-2047. The West Midlands Rail Executive was formed three years ago to give local authorities a direct influence over the award of the region’s main rail franchise. Working with the Department for Transpo... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


26-30 Railcard: taking advantage of opportunities

19/03/201926-30 Railcard: taking advantage of opportunities

After a nine-month national trial, the rail industry launched its seventh National Railcard for 26-30-year-olds on 2 January 2019. Rail Delivery ... more >
Caledonian Sleeper: a railway icon re-imagined

19/03/2019Caledonian Sleeper: a railway icon re-imagined

The world-renowned Caledonian Sleeper, due to begin operations at the end of spring 2019, completed its first Scotland to London journey earlier ... more >
East West Rail: the next steps

19/03/2019East West Rail: the next steps

In January, five route options for the central section of East West Rail were published as part of a public consultation on the next phase of the... more >
Rail's role in transit-orientated developments

19/03/2019Rail's role in transit-orientated developments

Jonathan Bray, director at the Urban Transport Group (UTG), argues that transit-oriented developments are the future – and that rail has a ... more >

rail industry focus

View all News


Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

12/03/2019Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

RTM sits down with Samantha Smith, sole female member of the TransPennine Route Upgrade Alliance Leadership Team, to find out more about encourag... more >