Ac­tion plans to avoid re­peat of stranded trains fi­asco

Rail (UK) - - Network News - Richard Clin­nick richard.clin­nick@bauer­me­ @Clin­nick1 As­sis­tant Ed­i­tor

NET­WORK Rail and South­east­ern will de­liver new train­ing for 3,500 staff, fol­low­ing an in­ci­dent at Lewisham on March 2 ( RAIL 848).

Dur­ing se­vere weather con­di­tions, pas­sen­gers took the de­ci­sion to evac­u­ate them­selves from trains that had be­come stranded.

An in­de­pen­dent re­port pub­lished by con­sul­tants Arthur D Lit­tle and South­wood Rail Con­sult­ing ex­am­ined the cir­cum­stances be­hind the in­ci­dent, which oc­curred at the end of a week of ex­tremely cold weather, in­clud­ing snow, ice and freez­ing rain over much of the UK.

The re­port rec­om­mends im­prove­ments to com­mand and con­trol ar­range­ments, while also stat­ing that in­dus­try pro­ce­dures for stranded trains need re­vis­it­ing to avoid a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion in the fu­ture.

It found that lessons must be learned in the way dis­rup­tion is man­aged and how in­for­ma­tion is shared.

Other rec­om­men­da­tions from the re­port in­clude: ■ Net­work Rail is in­ves­ti­gat­ing ex­pand­ing the in­stal­la­tion of con­duc­tor rail heat­ing to in­clude key lo­ca­tions (such as Lewisham) which, al­though not prone to freez­ing, could po­ten­tially ben­e­fit from heat­ing in ex­treme weather events. A trial of a more ef­fec­tive anti-icer on its fleet of snow and ice treat­ment trains will also be car­ried out. In ad­di­tion, South­east­ern is ex­plor­ing the use of ice-breaker shoes on some pas­sen­ger trains. ■ Net­work Rail and South­east­ern are work­ing with spe­cial­ist con­sul­tants on plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion for se­vere weather. This will in­clude ex­am­in­ing the cri­te­ria needed to de­cide if trains should even be run­ning in ex­treme weather, such as the snow and icy con­di­tions ex­pe­ri­enced in March. ■ South­east­ern is ex­am­in­ing en­gi­neer­ing changes to ex­tend train bat­tery life, mean­ing that train com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems and light­ing could stay on longer if the third rail power sys­tem is un­avail­able. ■ The two com­pa­nies are im­prov­ing how they com­mu­ni­cate dur­ing ex­treme win­ter weather. This in­cludes in­vest­ment in im­proved sys­tems for pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion to cus­tomers; re­vised pro­to­cols for com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween teams on the ground and in con­trol cen­tres; and more ef­fec­tive pro­ce­dures for li­ais­ing be­tween dif­fer­ent or­gan­i­sa­tions in­volved in any fu­ture in­ci­dent.

In a joint state­ment, South­east­ern Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor David Statham and Net­work Rail’s South East Route Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor John Hal­sall said: “Win­ter weather con­di­tions in 2018 were the most chal­leng­ing we’ve seen in the South East for more than a decade. Un­for­tu­nately, this led to a very se­ri­ous in­ci­dent in Lewisham, and we’re de­ter­mined to learn from what hap­pened.

“We sin­cerely apol­o­gise to pas­sen­gers for what was an un­pleas­ant and dis­tress­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Our staff worked ex­cep­tion­ally hard in ex­tremely dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, but the num­ber of trains in­volved in this in­ci­dent made it dif­fi­cult to co-or­di­nate a re­sponse.

“Both South­east­ern and Net­work Rail are tak­ing steps to min­imise the pos­si­bil­ity of this hap­pen­ing again. We are im­prov­ing our man­age­ment of ex­treme weather, ex­am­in­ing ways to keep the power on when con­duc­tor rails fail, and up­dat­ing our pro­ce­dures for com­mu­ni­cat­ing with pas­sen­gers in an emer­gency.

“We would like to em­pha­sise that the safest op­tion for pas­sen­gers is to re­main on board and await help, even in the ex­cep­tion­ally un­usual sce­nario of a train get­ting stuck be­tween sta­tions.”

The re­mit of the re­port was agreed in con­sul­ta­tion with con­sumer bod­ies Lon­don Trav­elWatch and Trans­port Fo­cus, as well as with trade unions.

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