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07.10.16

RAIB: London Midland processes for assessing driver managers ‘inadequate’

A train carrying around 2,000 passengers broke a temporary speed restriction earlier this year because of a miscommunication in an incident that could have been ‘very serious’, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has said.

At 08.28 on 5 January, the 07.39 London Midland train from Bletchley to London Euston travelled at 75mph through a 5mph emergency speed restriction at Queen’s Park in north-west London.

Network Rail had introduced the restriction the previous night after engineers found a crack in the track on a crossing.

In its report into the incident, the RAIB stressed that, because of the number of passengers on the train, the incident “had the potential to be very serious”.

Before the incident, two e-mails were sent and a notice posted to inform drivers about the restriction. However, the train driver did not realise the notices applied to his route because they referred to a ‘crossing’. He misunderstood this as meaning an up and down goods loop, not the up slow line he was travelling on.

A driver manager was travelling with the driver to provide a peer-to-peer assessment, but he did not properly read the e-mails or notice and believed the driver’s explanation of where the restriction applied.

The RAIB report said that London Midland’s processes for maintaining driver managers’ driving and assessing competencies were ‘inadequate’, because they relied on peer-to-peer assessments, where the drivers often knew each other and were less likely to be rigorous.

The report said that London Midland should review and improve its process for routine competence management and assessment of driver managers, ensure that safety critical information is easily and unambiguously communicated to drivers, and introduce an effective means of ensuring that staff can rapidly establish who is driving a train.

In addition, it said the incident provided three learning points for the rail industry as a whole: ensuring that safety critical communications do not use ambiguous words such as ‘crossing’; ensuring that managers with driving competencies fully familiarise themselves with all relevant safety critical information when taking charge of a train; and ensuring that assessors prepare themselves as if they were driving the train and do not confirm any misunderstandings held by the driver.

When contacted by RTM, a London Midland spokesperson said the company wasn’t commenting on the story.

(Image c. Alvey and Towers)

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