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TOCs issued warning over driver mobile phone use

A warning has been issued for train operating companies (TOCs) to ensure that drivers do not use their mobile phones while operating a train, following an investigation into an incident last year when a passenger’s hand was trapped in a door.

The incident occurred at 1.10pm on 25 July 2015 at Hayes and Harlington station when a passenger trying to board a First Great Western (as Great Western Railway was then known) service from Oxford to London Paddington stuck her hand in the door as it was closing, mistakenly believing that the door interlock system would sense this and reopen.

Her hand was trapped as the train started and she was dragged 19m along the platform for six seconds. She did not suffer lasting injuries and was able to take herself to hospital.

The driver stated that he checked the CCTV before starting the train but did not see the passenger. Analysis of the driver’s mobile phone by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) showed that he had used it to reply to text messages earlier during the journey, although not while the train was at Hayes and Harlington station.

The RAIB said that First Great Western had failed to “detect and adequately respond to” previous concerns about the safety performance of the driver, who had been placed on a competence development plan following safety concerns about incidents dating back to 2011.

The RAIB reminded TOCs that the use of mobile phones by drivers “creates an unacceptable risk of distraction and is therefore dangerous” and said that all train operators should ensure they have the necessary measures in place to identify drivers who are showing signs of sub-standard performance.

It also said that Angel Trains and Eversholt Rail should extend current research on fitting sensitive edge door technology on Class 365 trains to include Class 165 units like that involved in the accident, as well as classes 166, 465 and 466, and develop a plan for the fitting of modified doors to those units if the case can be made to do so.

The report comes as trade union RMT is leading strikes on Southern and ScotRail services over plans to extend driver operated only (DOO) services, saying they aren’t safe.

RAIB has investigated three ‘trap and drag’ accidents on DOO trains in the past 10 years.

Simon French, chief inspector of rail accidents, said: “Although our investigations cover too small a sample for us to draw conclusions about the relative safety of different methods of train dispatch, we have found no evidence to suggest that driver only operated trains cannot be dispatched safely.”

However, he emphasised that safety was dependent on provision of suitable equipment, rigorous compliance with safety rules and effective management of risks at stations.

A similar incident at West Wickham, where a passenger was seriously injured when her backpack strap was caught in a door, was also caused by problems with the door operating system and the trainee driver’s failure to notice the passenger.


A spokesperson for Great Western Railway said: "While such accidents are rare, we will continue to work with the RAIB and our industry partners to maintain and improve the safety of our stations and on board services."

They added that, since July last year, Great Western has updated its guidance for staff to draw further attention to the door interlock.

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Kev Smith   01/07/2016 at 12:34

The Mobile phone is the biggest menace to anyone controlling any vehicle, the only phone that should be in use in a loco/mu cab is the one connected to control/signalbox. all other phones MUST be turned off or left away from the drivers desk - simple. In emergency only must the mobile be used...

Rupert Le Bere   01/07/2016 at 13:47

Quite agree with Kev's comments, BUT, for once I have some sympathy with RMT's concerns about the spread of DOO. Drivers have an ever increasing operational responsibility without the added responsibilities of customer care. Let no-one be under any illusion - DOO is just an unacceptable and risky cost saving measure by TOCs in an age when there is a greater public demand for a visual staff presence on train.

Anon   04/07/2016 at 14:52

@Rupert - DOO has and does operate successfully on many railways including mainline and metro UK - if it were risky, no TOCs would do it yet many do. There is also a huge difference from actual risk and "a greater public demand".

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