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RAIB issues driver stress warning after train went twice over speed limit

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has recommended train companies and Network Rail review key safety procedures after a train passed through Peterborough at over twice the speed limit.

The Virgin Trains East Coast service from Newcastle to London King’s Cross passed through Fletton Junction, near Peterborough, at 51mph at 17:11 on 11 September 2015, despite a speed limit of 25mph being in place in the area.

The driver, who had 25 years of experience, stated that at the time of the incident he was not sleeping and eating properly because of worry over a family problem and his manager had offered to arrange counselling for him.

The RAIB found that the driver’s state of mind had contributed to him missing a sign alerting him to the speed restriction, but that the sign was also too small. It was 450mm in diameter, instead of the recommended 900mm.

There was no serious damage caused by the incident but the train lurched sideways, causing minor injuries to three members of staff and a passenger when they lost their balance.

The RAIB said that Virgin East Coast, and potentially other train operators, should introduce an enhanced process to encourage open discussion between drivers and their managers about drivers’ personal problems that could lead to safety concerns.

It also said that they should identify locations such as Fletton Junction where there is a greater than usual risk that a driver may not be aware of a speed restriction.

It said that Network Rail should implement any possible risk-reduction measures at these locations, and also review whether operational signs are in compliance with safety regulations.

3.45pm UPDATE

A Virgin East Coast spokesperson said: “Safety is our top priority and we welcome this report into improving train operators’ safety procedures. We are now studying each of the recommendations in detail.”

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Huguenot   01/08/2016 at 18:35

No excuse for the excessive speed, of course, but you have to ask why there should be a 25mph turnout on to the main line this far from the platforms. Of course trains need to accelerate away from stations: that's what helps timekeeping and gets the best out of limited line capacity. We have some stupid low-speed turnouts to and from main lines. Just look at the entry to Platform 4 at Peterborough from the down fast; entry to the down platforms at Doncaster is similarly slow. Up trains from Cambridge Platform 8 suffer a 15mph restriction. Crazy.

David   02/08/2016 at 16:01

Huguenot, are you familiar with the Peterborough locale? Fletton Junction is where the line converges to two tracks past Yaxley and Holme Fen.

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