At 09:55 hrs on Wednesday 29 August 2007 a track patrolman, a Network Rail (NR) employee, who was carrying out routine track inspection work, was struck by a passenger train, operated by South West Trains, at Leatherhead junction, about 50m south of Leatherhead station, Surrey. The patrolman was seriously injured, and has not yet been able to return to work.
The RAIB investigation identified that the immediate cause was that the patrolman had remained in the space between two railway lines as the train approached him. He had been warned of the approach of the train, and responded to that warning, but did not move to a safe place before the train arrived. A causal factor was that Network Rail had not prohibited work on the track at this location while trains were running, despite the limited visibility of approaching trains caused by the sharp curves nearby.
Contributory factors included:
- the working practices of the gang of track workers
- the person in charge of the gang not confirming that the patrolman was clear of the track
- that person not having been given adequate guidance on making arrangements for protecting workers on the track
- this deficiency not being identified by Network Rail management.
The underlying cause was that inspection work was taking place on the track while trains were running.
As a consequence of this accident, RAIB has made six recommendations, all targeted at Network Rail. Four of these recommendations address wide-ranging issues related to track worker safety and the quality of track inspections. The fifth and sixth recommendations propose that Network Rail revises its track inspection processes in order to improve staff safety.
Response to recommendations:
- RAIB will periodically update the status of recommendations as reported to us by the relevant safety authority or public body.
- RAIB may add comment, particularly if we have concerns regarding these responses.