The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has issued a report into an incident during which a passenger train operated by Avanti West Coast passed through an area with an emergency speed restriction (ESR) of 5mph while actually travelling at 45mph.
The incident happened at about 12:25 on 20 December 2020 near Beattock, on the up line of the West Coast main line. The 11:35 passenger service from Glasgow Central to London Euston travelled through the ESR above the required maximum speed. The ESR had been put in place because of an earlier embankment failure.
The driver of the train reported the incident to the signaller, who contacted maintenance staff working at the site. They confirmed that the train had been going too fast when it passed them, but that this had not affected the condition of the embankment or track.
When reporting the incident to the signaller, the driver stated that the distance between the warning board for the ESR and the speed indicator, showing the start of the ESR, was too short. Although the driver of the next train through the speed restriction reported back that the correct signage was all in place and they were able to slow down in time to comply with the ESR, subsequent investigations by Network Rail established that the distance between the ESR’s warning board and the start of the ESR was too short for trains that could approach the ESR at 125mph.
It seems that the team putting out the signs underestimated the distance required by a train running at 125mph to slow down, particularly on a 1 in 90 downgrade, as it was at that location.
The RAIB stated that this incident demonstrates the importance of:
- Trackside equipment giving adequate warning of speed restrictions ahead and accounting for the highest permissible speed of approach and the prevailing track gradient. The use of estimated or nominal braking distances can result in trains having inadequate time to slow down before they enter a speed restriction.
- Network Rail complying with its company standard NR/L3/TRK/7006 in a timely manner, so that the intended placement of equipment for emergency speed restrictions is checked by a person who is certified as competent before the equipment is installed.
The full report is available on the RAIB website.