Sussex

Southeastern fined £65,000 for 'out-of-control train'

Southeastern train
Image caption The train left Charing Cross and was travelling via the London Bridge line to Hastings

A rail company responsible for a train which overshot a station by two-and-a-half miles has been fined £65,000.

The 06:45 Southeastern commuter service from Charing Cross to Hastings overran Stonegate station in East Sussex by 2.4 miles (3.9km) on 8 November 2010.

Maidstone Crown Court was told it was effectively out of control for 3.2 miles (5.1km) from when braking began.

The rail company admitted two charges under two sections of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.

Southeastern was also ordered to pay £22,589 in costs.

The incident happened just after 08:00 GMT despite the driver applying emergency braking.

The court was told it happened because the train did not have any sand on board to help with braking in poor weather conditions.

'Non-stick frying pan'

Prosecutor Richard Evans said inadequate logging procedures and a lack of communication between Southeastern employees had meant the train had travelled 929 miles (1,495km) after a sand refill report was generated.

He said the the train was likely to have had no sand on board for about two days when it overran Stonegate station.

The court heard leaf mulch on the line meant conditions between the steel rails and train wheels were much like "oil on a non-stick frying pan".

The court was told the train driver was informed when he started his shift that rail conditions were classed as a "black day" - the worst kind - because of the poor weather and leaves on the line.

However, there was nothing in the driver's cab to warn him that sand levels were low, Mr Evans said.

He added that following an investigation, it was discovered that another four trains did not have adequate sand on board to be able to cope with the poor conditions

Neil Garnham QC, representing Southeastern, said even if everything that should have been done had been, the train would still have overshot Stonegate station by up to 0.8 miles (1.3km) because of poor rail adhesion.

'Rare event'

He said Southeastern had taken the incident very seriously and had made significant changes to the way it runs and maintains its trains.

Judge Andrew Patience said he was disturbed by the fact there had been no warning system in the cab for the driver and said there had been "very serious breaches of duty".

"Had there been a loss of life or limb, or grave damage to property, the fines would have been in six figures," he said.

Charles Horton, managing director of Southeastern, said it had undertaken a thorough investigation and fully implemented all recommendations.

"We never compromise on safety and have made changes to procedures to further reduce the possibility of this extremely rare event occurring again."

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