die belebende Bedenkung

Departure in oblivion

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There seem to be unmanaged safety issues with both driver-only operation and driver-guard operation on the GB rail network. On 7 November 2016, an ‘operating incident’ at Reedham station, involving the driver-only-operated 0554 GTR Southern service from Tattenham Corner to London Bridge, ‘allowed the train to roll downhill unpowered one coach length at low speed before the driver realised the doors were open’, City AM reported.

[‘A Southern train without a guard travelled with its doors open yesterday (but not very far)’, Rebecca Smith, City AM, 2016-11-08]

“There was nothing wrong with the train and early indications are this was driver error in releasing the brakes before the doors had shut.”

But there must be ‘something wrong’ somewhere, if trains can move off, with the doors still open.

And there must be something wrong somewhere, if trains can leave a station leaving the guard, or intending passengers, behind. On 31 January 2017, “shortly after 8.23am the 8.16am (Northern Rail driver-and-guard-operated) Ilkley to Leeds service was delayed after the train left Burley in Wharfedale station whilst the conductor was still on the platform”.

[‘Train guard left at Burley-in-Wharfedale station causes delay’, BBC, 2017-01-31]

A guard was accidentally stranded at a railway station when the train left without him.

Passengers had to get out through the driver’s cab door at the next stop and were delayed for an hour waiting for another train.

The safety of one person operated commuter trains remains a topic of dispute between train operators, the government, and the railway unions. On 5 January 2017 the Office of Rail and Road published a report from from HM Chief Inspector of Railways regarding the extension of Driver-Only Operation (DOO) on the TSGN ‘franchise’.

[‘GTR – Southern Railways – Driver Only Operation (DOO) – Report from the HM Chief Inspector of Railways’, 5 January 2017]

[…] We have set out in this report ORR’s findings about GTR Southern’s proposed form of Driver-Only Operation (DOO) for the safe dispatch of trains and its compliance with health and safety law following a review and inspections of GTR-Southern introducing DOO on new routes. In short, ORR’s view is that with suitable equipment, procedures and competent staff in place the proposed form of train dispatch intended by GTR-Southern meets legal requirements for safe operation.


How driver’s cab monitors turning off at 4 mph (6.5 km/h) can be considered a ‘suitable procedure for driver only operation’, is difficult to understand.

Written by beleben

February 1, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Politics, Railways

One Response

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  1. Indeed the release for the new Merseyrail trains effuses that the DOO system would have eliminated the situation where a passenger same back to the train as it was leaving with doors closed, and received fatal injuries. The guard was jailed but reviewing the sequence of events this seems seriously unjust. A rough working with the log of times and speeds suggests that the train could have been stopped in around half the time, reached half the speed, and travelled far less distance, if the guard had had a direct control of the emergency brake and not had to cross the cab to send the signal to the driver to apply the brakes – and the further delay in the driver’ reaction time and speed of the brakes taking effect.

    A similar DOO incident also reviewed by RAIB was at Charing Cross, where the passenger tangled with the train, after a platform initiated dispatch, where the dispatcher and others nearby stood helpless to stop the train, and the driver was focussed on driving. Tellingly modern trains have no fast and accessible means to apply the emergency brake from the platform if someone tangles with the train, and most now have no means to do this from inside either.

    The split focus issue has other hazards with train dispatching – Bellgrove, whilst a guard-dispatched service (and Newton?) saw the driver moving off with a red aspect and a collision on the cost cutting single lead junction – Newton is now separated.

    Multi tasking is a recipe for problems, and a drive must surely be focussed on signalling and the track ahead as the train moves clear of the platform, rather than doing this and monitoring the platform, especially for a 12 coach train.

    I’ve pulled the tail a few times over the years on trains departing with doors open or insecure or passengers caught by the closing doors, all with valid reason, and never questioned. The ability to directly vent the brake pipe potentially saves a second or more over the driver alert, and speaking to the passenger system, on modern trains. As with the emergency door releases, an accessible emergency stop control which will only blow the pipe at low speeds us not that difficult to deliver.

    The whole detail does need much closer scrutiny given that 9 of the 10 RAIB investigations into dispatch incidents are DOO and many other incidents of kids stranded on departing trains etc do not seem to appear on the radar.


    February 1, 2017 at 2:57 pm

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