At around 10:52 hrs on 7 April 2016, a wheelchair occupied by a teenage girl moved towards the edge of platform 4 at Twyford station and came into multiple glancing contacts with the wagons of a passing freight train. The last contact pushed the wheelchair clear of the platform edge. The girl suffered a minor injury to her foot.
Prior to the accident, the girl and her mother were waiting to catch a train on the platform. The wheelchair was stationary, behind the yellow line painted on the platform, and with the wheels parallel to the railway tracks. It was positioned next to the girl’s mother, who had applied the brakes.
The accident occurred because the freight train’s slipstream, combined with the ambient wind, generated an aerodynamic force which was able to overcome the brakes on the wheelchair. The mother was unaware that the freight train posed a hazard to the wheelchair, and therefore did not take any additional precautions beyond applying the brakes.
As a result of the investigation, the RAIB has made five recommendations. One recommendation is made to the Rail Delivery Group to inform the public of the potential hazards from train slipstreams and the need to apply brakes and keep a hold of wheelchairs and pushchairs when non-stopping trains pass through stations. Two recommendations are made to RSSB; one to investigate measures to improve the safety of wheelchair and pushchair users at railway stations, and the second to change the Railway Group Standard which specifies when a station operator must carry out a formal assessment of the risks from passing trains. Two recommendations are also made to Great Western Railway; to continue its current work to risk-assess the platforms for which it is responsible, and to ensure that warnings of passing trains provided to station users are timely and effective.
The RAIB has also identified a learning point for members of the public: that trains passing through platforms, particularly freight trains, can generate powerful slipstreams sufficient to move a wheelchair or pushchair against its brakes.
Simon French, Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents said:
This distressing accident has highlighted the fact that even slow moving trains can cause significant airflows on station platforms. Passengers should be aware that such airflows can move wheeled transport and take particular care when travelling.
We have recommended that the rail industry takes steps to promote a greater public awareness of the potential hazards from train slipstreams. We have also made a number of recommendations relating to the way that the industry manages aerodynamic risk in stations.
Notes to editors
- The sole purpose of RAIB investigations is to prevent future accidents and incidents and improve railway safety. RAIB does not establish blame, liability or carry out prosecutions.
- RAIB operates, as far as possible, in an open and transparent manner. While our investigations are completely independent of the railway industry, we do maintain close liaison with railway companies and if we discover matters that may affect the safety of the railway, we make sure that information about them is circulated to the right people as soon as possible, and certainly long before publication of our final report.
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Newsdate: 19 January 2017