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.