Near miss with track workers at Sundon, Bedfordshire

Track workers narrowly avoided being struck by a train at Sundon, Bedfordshire. [RAIB/East Midlands Trains]

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has published its Safety Digest report on a near-miss with track workers at Sundon, Bedfordshire, on 12 December 2018.

At around 23:50 on the night of 12 December 2018, two track workers narrowly avoided being struck by an express passenger train that was travelling at about 100mph (161km/h) on the Midland main line near the village of Sundon, Bedfordshire. The track workers quickly moved clear to avoid being struck, having been alerted to the train’s approach when the driver sounded the warning horn.

Forward-facing CCTV fitted to the train shows that the track workers were clear of the train’s path less than two seconds before it passed them. Although nobody was physically injured, both track workers and the train driver were left shocked.

The near miss occurred because the track workers were walking along a line open to traffic in the mistaken belief they were on a line which was closed to traffic. This confusion arose because the track workers had unintentionally accessed the railway at the wrong location for the planned work.

In its summary, the RAIB concludes that this incident demonstrates:

  • The importance of providing signage so that staff can reliably identify access points, and the track layout relative to them;
  • The need for people responsible for the safety of others to have appropriate local knowledge of the area in which they are to work;
  • The need for staff to have mapping which helps them reach the correct access points from areas outside the railway boundary;
  • The potential for staff to become disorientated, particularly when travelling in the dark to work locations remote from safety briefing locations;
  • The importance of reaching a clear understanding during face to face safety critical communication;
  • The importance of sounding the warning horn, which on this occasion probably averted a fatal accident.

The full Safety Digest 05/2019: Sundon is available for download on the RAIB website.

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