At around 12:18 hrs on 17 September 2015, the 10:55 hrs service from Cambridge collided with the buffer stops at platform 11 of King’s Cross station, London. The train was formed of a four-car class 317 electric multiple unit and was being driven at the time by a trainee driver under the supervision of a driver instructor. The train came into the platform at normal speed, but the brakes were not applied so as to bring the train to a stand before the collision with the buffer stops occurred. At the time of the collision, the train was travelling at around 7.5 mph (12 km/h). Upon contact with the buffers, the train stopped rapidly, with the buffer stops moving back a short distance.
Fourteen passengers reported injuries: of those, four were treated by the London Ambulance Service and two were taken to hospital. Both were released later the same day. There was minor damage caused to the buffer stops and the outside of the train. A small number of interior fittings were dislodged during the impact and at least one passenger was struck by a detached lighting diffuser as it fell from the ceiling of the train.
The accident occurred because the trainee driver did not apply the brakes in time. The driver instructor told the trainee when the brakes needed to be applied, but the trainee selected the wrong control handle. He may have been distracted by seeing a person on the platform, and because he was still at an early stage of his practical training, he had not yet acquired instinctive competence in the selection of the correct control. The driver instructor was very experienced, but he had not been trained to teach, and his employer’s monitoring and assessment of his work as an instructor had not identified any deficiency in his ability to teach.
As a consequence of this investigation, RAIB has made two recommendations to the train operator, Govia Thameslink Railway. The first covers possible ways of minimising the risk from mistakes made by inexperienced trainee train drivers. The second relates to improvements to the way the company trains and manages driver instructors.
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.