At about 03:39 hrs on Tuesday 4 September 2018, a train arriving at Dollands Moor freight yard struck a small petrol powered buggy which was stationary on a level crossing. The train driver only became aware of the buggy shortly before the accident and was unable to stop in time to avoid a collision. A shunter sitting in the buggy attempted to jump clear at the last moment, but suffered life-changing injuries.
Dollands Moor freight yard was built to serve the Channel Tunnel, becoming fully operational in 1994, and is operated by DB Cargo (formally DB Schenker). From the outset, small buggies were provided to transport staff and equipment around the extensive site. A subway, which could accommodate the buggies, was provided at each end of the yard to allow staff access to individual sidings without crossing any tracks. Level crossings were also provided for emergency use by vehicles after railway signals had been set to stop trains approaching the crossings.
Until 2010, safety documentation included a requirement that subways be used by buggies crossing the sidings, but by 2012 this requirement was no longer included. By 2014, only one of the two subways remained open, but lighting in this subway had failed. Use of this subway was not enforced so most shunters chose to drive across the level crossings instead. There were no barriers, signs or written instructions indicating that vehicles were not allowed to use the level crossings unless signals were being used to stop any approaching trains. The injured shunter started work at Dollands Moor yard in 2018 and had been trained to cross the sidings using the level crossings without signal protection.
The RAIB has found that the buggy driver was unaware he was in an unsafe position, but there is insufficient evidence to determine why. The investigation also found that custom and practice at Dollands Moor yard had normalised use of the level crossings by buggies without signals being used to stop approaching trains, and that the buggy was not conspicuous so the train driver could not see it until it was too late to avoid an accident. The underlying factor was that DB Cargo’s management of the use of buggies, subways and level crossings at Dollands Moor yard was inadequate.
The RAIB has made two recommendations to DB Cargo to address significant gaps identified in the Dollands Moor yard safety management arrangements, and to review corporate oversight and verification of safety arrangements at locations across the UK.