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Driver avoids being hit by 105mph train ‘with three seconds to spare’

A Virgin train driver missed being hit by a 105mph train by three seconds and had to lie on the ground to avoid it, a Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report has stated.

The incident, which took place on 3 August this year, happened because the driver stopped the train and got out of to investigate a fault.

He stopped the train, the 07.55 Virgin East Coast service from Inverness to London King’s Cross, at Kyle Beck, 12 miles north of York station, after experiencing a loss of power and a permanent indication of wheelslip.

The driver then contacted the signaller at the York integrated control centre (IECC) to stop all trains on the adjacent lines so that he could get out of the cab to conduct a wheel rotation test.

He spoke to a trainee signaller, who was working under the supervision of an experienced signaller. The signaller said he would call the driver back, but the driver apparently misunderstood him and got out of the cab, believing a line blockage had already been ordered. The driver marked the wheels of the train without incident and got back into the cab.

However, when he got out a second time, the 12.00 London King’s Cross to Inverness service, another Virgin East Coast train, approached on the down fast line at 105 mph. The driver noticed it six seconds before it reached him, and lay down close to his train in the space between the down fast and up fast lines with three seconds to spare.

He then contacted the signaller to say he thought the line blockage had been granted, but did not explicitly say he had been involved in a near miss. The alarm was raised by the driver of the 12.00 service.

The RAIB said the incident showed the importance of signallers and drivers repeating back messages so as to reach a clear understanding when communicating safety critical information; drivers remaining in their cab until they have received positive confirmation that the adjacent lines had been blocked; and drivers reporting all near misses.

A Virgin Trains East Coast spokesperson said: “Safety is our top priority and it is important that incidents such as these are investigated thoroughly to ensure that any relevant lessons are learned. We welcome this safety digest by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch.”

The UK has had no passenger or worker fatalities in rail accidents for the past eight years, leading to its rail network being described as ‘one of the safest in the world’.

(Image c. David Parry from PA Wire)

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Manchester Mike   02/11/2016 at 15:49

Thankfully no injury, but surely frightening for the drivers!

Andrew Gwilt   02/11/2016 at 21:12

Network Rail could of been fined for not sorting out the signalling or the signaller could of been fined for not responding which lead to the driver having near death from a high speed train travelling at 105mph on the ECML in North Yorkshire. That driver could of sew Network Rail or the signaller. What a lucky escape from the train driver.

Boris   03/11/2016 at 07:55

It was a misunderstanding between the driver and the signaller, Andrew. Don't comment on the situation unless you understand what was going on.

Andrew Gwilt   03/11/2016 at 08:58

Boris. Please don't judge me.

Andrew Gwilt   03/11/2016 at 09:03

In fact Boris. I can comment on what I want to say so don't tell me not to do. Butt out or ignore me then.

Mark Hare   04/11/2016 at 13:34

Andrew, Boris is quite right. Both driver and signaller share responsibility for the near miss, due to them not reaching a 'clear understanding' about the block on the adjacent line. Suggesting the driver could 'sew' (sue?) Network Rail or the signaller is just utter tripe.

Andrew Gwilt   04/11/2016 at 19:00

Fair enough.

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