Report 15/2011: Uncontrolled freight train run-back between Shap and Tebay

Uncontrolled freight train run-back between Shap and Tebay, Cumbria, 17 August 2010.


In the early hours of 17 August 2010, a northbound freight train was travelling uphill on the West Coast Main Line between Tebay and Shap Summit in Cumbria. At 02:04 hrs the train slowed to a stop and then ran back until the driver braked and the train came to a stand at 02:09 hrs. During the run-back the train reached a maximum speed of 51 mph (82 km/h) and travelled 2.2 miles (3.5 km). The incident caused no injuries or damage; however the consequences could have been worse. If the driver had not braked when he did, the rear of the train would have travelled over a turnout into Tebay sidings at an excessive speed, which may have led to derailment, damage and obstruction of the adjacent line on which trains travel south.

The investigation found that DB Schenker’s train driver, who was working the first of a series of night shifts, was probably fatigued and not sufficiently alert at the time of the incident. It also found that although DB Schenker had used a recommended mathematical model and industry guidance to plan the shift, the driver had been exposed to a work pattern that was likely to induce high levels of fatigue. The report concludes that the mathematical model adopted by most of the rail industry is likely to under-predict the probability that high levels of fatigue will be experienced by people working a first night shift.

This report makes one recommendation to DB Schenker concerning its management of fatigue, two recommendations to the Office of Rail Regulation concerning guidance on the management of fatigue and the accuracy of mathematical models used to predict fatigue, and one recommendation to RSSB on improving rail industry information on fatigue-related accidents and incidents.

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 Shap and Tebay

Published 10 December 2014