Stafford red light

17 September 2013

Mick Whelan, incensed by the ‘institutional negligence’ of Devon & Cornwall Railways, has demanded a public inquiry into all the circumstances of a red signal passed at danger at Stafford.

A damning report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch of the Department for Transport, just published, reveals that on 26 April 2012 a Class 47 diesel-electric locomotive, owned by Riviera Trains, and operated by Devon & Cornwall Railways, part of the British American Rail Services group, was ‘travelling at excessive speed’, according to accident investigators, when it ran a red signal at Stafford. The report concludes: ‘The driver was probably aware that he had been exceeding the maximum permitted speed but did not make a full brake application.’

‘We are calling for a proper public inquiry into all the circumstances,’ said Mick, speaking after publication of the rail accident report. ‘And we will be writing to demand answers from all the stakeholders involved.

‘I am absolutely appalled at the institutional negligence of Devon & Cornwall Railways. Their attitude to what happened is completely at odds with what happens when one of our members is involved in a SPAD (signal passed at danger).’

The driver was a senior manager of Amtrain, a company which provides part-time consultancy to the British American Rail Services group, and working on a controversial zero hours contract with Devon & Cornwall Railways.

On the Bushbury to Stafford line he accelerated continuously to 100mph, made a ‘partial brake application’ and passed a double yellow (preliminary caution) signal, passed another single yellow (caution) signal at 70mph and then ran a red (danger) signal.

The driver subsequently claimed the speedometer was stuck, but failed at the time to report a defective speedometer as required by the rule book.

Devon & Cornwall Railways tried to hush up the incident, claiming it was ‘low risk’.

But the RAIB’s damning rail accident report says the locomotive ‘was travelling at excessive speed’; the driver ‘did not make a full brake application as soon as he saw the double yellow signal’; ‘the driver may have deliberately exceeded the speed permitted for light locomotives’; ‘had limited experience of high speed operation’ and ‘insufficient route knowledge’; and that ‘the locomotive had not been maintained in accordance with vehicle maintenance instructions’. The RAIB condemns the ‘non-compliance’ of Devon & Cornwall Railways with its own safety management system and the ‘underlying deficiency’ in its safety culture.

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