News story

Fatal accident, Balham

This news article was withdrawn on

This item has been moved to the National Archives as RAIB has published its report describing this accident. See report 09/2017.

Investigation into a fatal accident to a passenger near Balham, South London, 7 August 2016.

The site of the accident, showing the direction of travel of the train (image courtesy of Network Rail Infrastructure Limited)
The site of the accident, showing the direction of travel of the train (image courtesy of Network Rail Infrastructure Limited)

At around 17:25 on Sunday 7 August 2016, a passenger travelling on a train from Gatwick Airport to London Victoria struck his head on a signal gantry near Balham. The train was travelling at about 60 mph (96 km/h) and he sustained fatal injuries.

The train was the 17:05 Gatwick Express service, formed of a five-coach class 442 electric multiple unit. Witness evidence indicates that the passenger was standing at a door in the third coach on the side facing away from the other railway tracks. This door, which is intended for the use of the train’s guard and opens inwards, has an opening droplight. There is a notice above the window “Do not lean out of window when train is moving”.

The signal gantry involved in the accident is about 700 metres south of Balham station, and spans all four lines. After the accident, RAIB measured the distance between the train, standing on the up fast line, and the post of the signal gantry. We found that, at the height of the middle of the droplight, this distance was around 260 mm (10.25 inches).

Our investigation will include examination of:

  • The factors which affected the clearance between the train and the signal gantry
  • The measures in place to control the risks from leaning out of train windows

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 recommendations to improve safety, at the conclusion of our investigation. This report will be available on our website.

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Published 31 August 2016