Report 17/2014: Accidents at Southend Central and Whyteleafe stations

Accidents involving a wheelchair rolling onto the track at Southend Central, 28 August 2013; and a pushchair rolling onto the track at Whyteleafe, 18 September 2013.


On 28 August 2013 a wheelchair user and her carer were waiting at Southend Central station for the arrival of a train when the wheelchair started to roll towards the edge of the platform, and then fell onto the track. Although the passenger and her wheelchair were recovered to the platform before the train arrived, the passenger was seriously injured in the fall.

On 18 September 2013, a mother and her two young children entered Whyteleafe station, near Caterham in Surrey. As the mother was purchasing a ticket from the ticket machine on the platform, the pushchair with baby strapped in started to roll away. The mother was unaware of this until it was too late to stop the pushchair rolling off the edge of the platform and onto the track. The baby suffered minor injuries in the fall.

RAIB’s investigation into the accidents found that the platforms at both Southend Central and Whyteleafe stations sloped towards the railway. At the time of their construction there was no specific requirement for platforms to slope away from the railway.

RAIB’s investigation also found that the individuals in charge of the wheelchair and pushchair had not applied the brakes and had not noticed that the platform sloped towards the track. There was nothing to alert users of either station to the presence of the slope.

The railway industry had generally recorded previous incidents of a similar nature as due solely to errors by the individuals concerned. As a consequence, the industry had not recognised the part that sloping platforms had played in the incidents.

RAIB has identified one learning point for the railway industry in relation to the importance of providing a means for station staff to contact signallers in case of emergency.

RAIB has made four recommendations. One recommendation has been made to Network Rail and the train operators (who as ‘Station Facility Operators’ are responsible for the safety of passengers at most stations in Britain) in respect of improvements in their processes for managing the risk of wheelchairs or pushchairs rolling off platforms. Two recommendations have been made to Network Rail for work to be undertaken to improve industry’s understanding of the role played by platform slopes in incidents and accidents and methods for managing the risk, and for improving intelligence on accidents and incidents where slopes on platforms may have been a causal factor. One recommendation has been made to the Association of Train Operating Companies on the provision of guidance on methods for managing the risk of wheelchairs or pushchairs rolling off platforms.

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.

RAIB Recommendation response for Southend Central and Whyteleafe

Published 10 December 2014