- Press notices
Merseyrail operator fined £85,000 for runaway train incident
23 May 2011
The Merseyrail franchise operator, Merseyrail Electrics 2002 Ltd, has today been fined £85,000 and ordered to pay costs of £20,970.15 after pleading guilty to breaches of health and safety law following a runaway train derailment on 30 June 2009.
Today’s sentencing at Liverpool Crown Court follows an Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) investigation into the incident which led to a stationary train undergoing repairs at Kirkdale depot in Liverpool running onto the main line and crashing into a buffer and a wall. The runaway train narrowly avoided colliding with a passenger train.
ORR’s investigation found that Merseyrail was aware of the risks involved in maintaining trains at depots following a similar runaway train incident at Birkenhead North on 11 January 2007. Merseyrail had introduced procedures to control risks, but had failed to effectively supervise its workers to ensure that required safety standards were met.
Commenting on the case, Caroline Wake, ORR’s deputy chief inspector of railways said:
“Merseyrail failed in its duty to protect the safety and wellbeing of its staff and its passengers, and it is fortunate no-one was seriously hurt. ORR will not tolerate rail workers or passengers being put at unnecessary risk and we continue to press for improvements across the rail industry, taking appropriate enforcement action - including prosecution - when necessary.
“Merseyrail recognised that safety improvements were needed, and the rail regulator is satisfied with the company’s enhanced safety systems put in place since June 2009 to reduce the likelihood of a similar incident happening again.”
Notes to editors
- Merseyrail pleaded guilty to breaches of sections 2 (1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to ensure the health and safety of persons both in and not in their employment.
- On 29 June 2009, a train was withdrawn from service and stabled at Kirkdale depot because it had developed a power fault. Arrangements were made for repairs to be made to the train the following day.
- To diagnose and solve the problem the train was isolated from the live rail using a technique called “paddling up” - a procedure whereby a wooden panel is placed between the conductor rail and the pick-up shoes which hang down from the side of the train. Procedures to electrically isolate and prevent movement of the train should have been enacted.
- Once the tests were complete, the paddle was removed without the train being taken out of gear. This error caused the train to regain its traction power from the live rail.
- The runaway train left the depot, reaching an estimated speed of 30 mph before passing over a device which acted to apply the brakes and divert it to another track adjacent to the main rail line.
- At the end of the track, the runaway train collided with, and demolished, the buffer stop and a wall, before blocking the passenger train line. An Ormskirk bound passenger train had passed the collision point less than 5 seconds previously. The runaway train was severely damaged along with track and points in the vicinity of the crash site.
- One worker was injured, sustaining minor injuries to his wrist and leg in his attempt to reach an emergency stop button on the side of the moving train. There were no passengers on the runaway train and no bystanders were injured.
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