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TOCs urged to conduct proper safety checks after trapped passenger is dragged by train

An incident that saw a passenger dragged along by a train after getting trapped in the closing doors was caused by operational issues and a misunderstanding of safety instructions, the RAIB has found.

On 26 March this year, a woman was dragged along the platform by a night-time train departing from Bushey station after her forearm was trapped by an external door of the train. She was forced to run beside the moving vehicle to avoid being pulled off her feet, until the driver eventually operated an emergency brake plunger.

The Class 350 train involved in the accident—a Siemens Desiro EMU—was fitted with a door system designed with sensitive edges which detect the presence of trapped objects.

But the RAIB has previously found that similar door systems can be detected as closed and locked even with an object trapped between the doors. The same had happened in Newcastle in 2014, when another Desiro train fitted with the same sensitive-door design failed to detect a wrist.

Following the Newcastle incident, RAIB issued urgent safety advice to Desiro fleet operators asking them to consider the need for extra operational and technical measures to manage this risk. The inspectorate also recommended that Siemens redesign the doors in future vehicles supplied to the UK.

Updated training programmes and risk assessment measures have been undertaken by West Midlands Trains since the Newcastle incident. But at Bushey, where the self-dispatch method was in use, there was a misunderstanding of proper safety procedures.

The conductor stated that he believed the extinguished train-body side lights and the illuminated interlock light in his cab showed that no-one was trapped in the doors, but records held by the TOC show that he had attended safety briefings where staff learned never to assume that extinguished lights means people can’t still be caught in the door.

“This accident demonstrates the importance of staff responsible for the dispatch of trains conducting a thorough final safety check after the passenger doors have closed,” the RAIB said. “They should always remember that in certain circumstances it is possible for the door control system to detect the doors as closed when someone is trapped in them.”

The issue of passengers trapped in train doors has been part of intense union debate in the past few years. In 2016, in response to a leaked TfL report into an incident where a woman was caught between the train and the platform at Canning Town, the RMT argued that staff cuts on the Underground were putting safety at risk. Earlier this year, a 78-year-old woman was also dragged into a tunnel on the Underground after her bag became stuck between train doors.

The Bushey incident is also similar to a string of other mainline accidents, including a serious incident on a Southeastern train in 2016, another at Hayes & Harlington station in 2015, and one at King’s Cross in 2011.

You can view the latest RAIB safety digest here.

(Top image c. Nigel Cox)


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