A signaller misjudged the space available on the platform for two trains that collided in Plymouth, an initial investigation has found. A train travelling from Penzance to Exeter collided with another train on platform six just after 15.30 BST on 3 April. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch initial findings found the signaller believed there was enough space for both trains on the platform. About 35 people were injured.
The report said: "Allowing trains to share a platform is known as permissive working, and is allowed for passenger trains using platform six. "The signaller could see the rear of the train from the signal box window and estimated there was enough room for the moving train to fit on the platform. This was not the case."
One of the trains was moved to platform six due to passenger lifts being closed for maintenance on alternative platforms, the report said.
While approaching Plymouth, the moving train accelerated to about 21 mph and went through a relatively tight, left-hand curve. That is when the driver saw the rear of the stationary train on platform six and was surprised to see it so close to the west end of the platform. The investigation report said: "He looked at the tracks to confirm which route the train was taking and, realising a collision was imminent, applied the emergency brake. "This was around three seconds before the collision, which occurred at about 15 mph. "Many passengers were standing in preparation to leave the train and were thrown into the train's fixtures and onto the floor.
Rail Technology Magazine gives a bit more detail:
Train 2E68 from Penzance to Exeter, composed of two multiple-car diesel class 150 units with around 60 passengers on board, would normally have used platform 8, but the signaller decided to signal it into platform 6 to allow passengers changing trains to 1A91 to do so easily, again because of the lift closure. The signaller incorrectly estimated that there was enough room at the platform for both trains.
Many passengers were standing because they were about to leave the train, and some were thrown around or on to the floor. Seven of those injured were reported to have needed hospital treatment, including the driver. Both trains were also damaged, and the station was closed for around 90 minutes.
The RAIB will follow these preliminary findings with a detailed inquiry into the actions of staff involved, the signalling and platform working arrangements at Plymouth, the performance of the train during the collision and any 'underlying management factors'.
It looks like the Plymouth accident will mean that figures for injuries on the UK’s rail network are already higher than 2015, when 29 people were injured in total, prompting the RSSB to praise the UK for having “one of the safest rail networks in Europe.