Report 11/2009: Road-rail vehicle runaway incidents at Brentwood and Snow Hill

Road-rail vehicle runaway incidents at Brentwood and Snow Hill, 2007.


In the incident at Brentwood, at around 10:12 hrs on 4 November 2007 a machine operator and a machine controller (a person authorised to control and supervise an item of on-track plant on the railway) were putting a Basket 14 road-rail vehicle (RRV), a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP), on the track near Brentwood station when it ran away westward to Romford and London.

The operator and machine controller were unable to stop the RRV before it gathered speed. After travelling some four miles, the machine left the section of line that had been blocked to give protection from running trains and the operator, who was in the work basket, jumped clear. The machine ran for a further three miles before Network Rail staff were able to stop it west of Romford station. The operator was injured and required out-patient hospital treatment.

In the incident at Birmingham Snow Hill, at around 02:30 hrs on 31 October 2007, a TD-18 RRV (another type of MEWP) was being removed from the track near Birmingham Snow Hill station when it ran away. It collided with a Basket 14 RRV parked 10-15 metres away. There were two persons in the work basket of the Basket 14 RRV and another was in the driving cab of the TD-18 RRV. They all managed to move clear before the collision and no-one was injured.

The RAIB decided to conduct a joint investigation into these incidents as the similarities between the two – the vehicle types involved, the operations taking place and the parties involved – highlighted the likelihood of common safety learning.

The RAIB has identified two causal factors for the incident at Brentwood, and one for the incident at Birmingham. All three concern the site practices involved in placing the RRVs on and off the track.

The RAIB has also identified thre further contributory factors for each event.

As a consequence of these incidents, the RAIB has targeted six recommendations at Network Rail, the owner of the infrastructure on which the RRVs were being used, to address causal and contributory factors. They concern procedures and training for on/off-tracking RRVs, the training given on Network Rail’s competency scheme for machine controllers and a review of MEWPs to decide if modifications are required to prevent the possibility of an unbraked condition during on/off-tracking.

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 Brentwood and Snow Hill

Updates to this page

Published 10 December 2014