At 15:34 hrs on Sunday 3 April 2016, a train entering platform 6 at Plymouth station, collided with a stationary train. Around 42 people, including the drivers of both trains, were injured; one passenger seriously.
The stationary train, 1A91, had arrived in platform 6 around 34 minutes before the collision. This train would normally have used platform 7. On this occasion it could not because the platform lifts were closed for planned maintenance and the train required its catering supplies to be restocked before its onward journey to London Paddington at 15:41 hrs. At the time of the collision, train 1A91 had two members of staff on board.
Train 2E68 was the 13:39 hrs service from Penzance to Exeter. It was formed of two class 150 diesel multiple units coupled together; a total of four vehicles. There were approximately 76 passengers and 4 members of staff on the train as it approached Plymouth. This train was booked into platform 8 at Plymouth but the signaller decided to signal the train into platform 6 behind train 1A91 so that passengers intending to catch train 1A91 could do so easily, as the lifts were not working on both platforms 7 and 8. Allowing trains to share a platform is known as permissive working and was allowed for passenger trains using platform 6. The signaller could see the rear of train 1A91 from the signal box window and estimated that there was enough room for train 2E68 to fit on the platform behind train 1A91, however, there was insufficient room.
Travelling towards Plymouth station from the west, the data recorder fitted to train 2E68 showed the train slowed to about 8 mph (14 km/h) as it approached a red (stop) aspect displayed by signal P15 which is located around 330 metres from where the rear of train 1A91 stood. Two white lights and a numeral were then displayed adjacent to this red aspect (which remained lit) as an indication that the train was permitted to proceed to platform 6 with the driver prepared to stop short of any train, vehicle or obstruction. There is no evidence of any signalling malfunction.
The train then passed signal P15 and accelerated to a speed of around 21 mph (34 km/h). As it approached Plymouth station through a relatively tight, left-hand curve, the driver saw train 1A91 in platform 6 ahead. The driver was surprised to see the rear of train 1A91 so close to the west end of the platform. 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 (24 km/h). Many passengers were standing in preparation to leave the train and were thrown into the train’s fixtures and onto the floor.
Our investigation will include examination of:
- the actions of staff involved
- the signalling and platform working arrangements at Plymouth station
- the performance of the train during the collision
- any underlying management factors.
Our investigation is independent of any investigation by the railway industry, the British Transport Police or by the industry’s regulator, the Office of Rail and Road.
We will publish our findings, including any safety recommendations at the conclusion of our investigation; these will be available on our website.
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