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Report finds that TPWS would have prevented Lewes collision

  : Saturday Match 11, 2000
A report from the Health &
photo: guardian

Click to view graphic showing how the the accident at Lewes occurred
(opens in new window)

from the Daily Telegraph

Train Protection and Warning System
TPWS is due to be installed at some 12,000 locations on the British rail netweork by the year 2002. It is designed to lower the incidenc eof SPADs (Signals Passed at Danger). The introduction of the system is controversial because, according to critics it will not help to prevent accidents where trains are travelling at speeds in excess of 70 mph.
Safety Executive says that TPWS would have prevented a collision between a passenger train and an empty train at Lewes station last year.

The report finds that the passenger train moved off against a red signal after stopping at Lewes station . TPWS, if it had been installed would have automatically stopped the train as it passed the danger signal.

The accident occurred on 18 October, 1999, where the lines from Brighton and from Haywards Heath converge. The trains involved were the 17:52 London, Victoria to Hastings train and an empty train which was being transferred from the down line to the up line just beyond Lewes station. It was on the crossover between the two lines that the collision occurred. There were 4 railway staff and 12 passengers on the trains. None were hurt.

The report blames human error for the incident. The driver of the train failed to use the Driver's Reminder Appliance (DRA) correctly. This should be activated by the driver when a train stops at a danger signal. It cuts the power to the train's traction motors. In a classic example of a so called "ding ding and away" incident, the driver responded to the guard's "ready to start" signal and started the train. The guard had acted on seeing a white light being displayed by one of the platform staff and on a hand signal that he claims was given by another member of the platform staff.

The driver of the train, the guard and a dispatcher were each given formal warnings by the HSE. Although prosecution was considered, it was beleived that there would not be "a realistic possibility of a conviction of any individual".

Signalman commended
A signalman who was on duty in the Lewes signal box was commended in the report for his quick action in trying to prevent the accident. He realised that a collision was imminent as the passenger train pulled away from the platform. He immediately transmitted a "General Stop" radio message. It was subsequently found that there were only seven seconds between the empty train fouling the junction and his radio message.

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Earlier story
Passenger trains collide at Lewes station
19 Oct 1999
Web sources:
Report by the Health & Safety Executive's Railway Inspectorate into the train accident at Lewes on 18 October 1999


Health & Safety Executive

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This file last updated: Saturday, 11-Mar-2000 21:16:24 EST
Copyright © David Fry 1999