Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Unbelievable! West Coast Railways does it again!

Ex-Southern Railway West Country Pacific 'Tangmere'

In March this year West Coast Railways (WCR) were operating ex-Southern Railway West Country Class pacific steam locomotive 'Tangmere' heading a main line excursion  train when they narrowly avoided collision with an Inter City 125 train at Wooton Basset Junction. 'Tangmere' ran through a temporary speed restriction marked by lineside boards and an AWS (Automatic Warning System) magnet placed between the running rails. The magnet tripped the train's AWS system (even though 'Tangmere' was travelling at a speed less than the speed restriction) giving the driver several seconds to acknowledge the warning. He failed to do this so the AWS applied the train's brakes, as it is designed to do. In this situation the crew should have let the train come to a stand before contacting the signaller for further instructons. Instead, they disabled the locomotive's TPWS (Train Protection & Warning System) by turning off a cock (which should have been sealed in the 'open' position but wasn't) preventing the AWS braking action from continuing.

The train slowed a little because of the braking that took place before the TPWS was disabled, but not significantly. 'Tangmere' then ran through a 'yellow' signal indication  which the crew missed seeing, at a speed which caused the TPWS to command a further brake application in order that the train would be brought to a stand before reaching the next signal, which would be at 'red'. However, because the TPWS had been disabled, the commanded brake application was not implemented and 'Tangmere' ran on through the 'yellow' signal, towards the 'red' signal at unabated speed.

The driver saw the 'red' signal and made an immediate full manual brake application, but it was too late for the train to stop in time. It over-ran the 'red' signal by several hundred metres coming to rest on Wooton Basset junction, which the 'red' signal was protecting because the junction had been set to allow an Inter City 125 to join the main line ahead of 'Tangmere'. Thankfully, when Tangmere over-ran its signal and entered the junction the Inter City 125 had passed several seconds earlier and the signaller had changed the points in anticipation of giving 'Tangmere' the road behind the 125, so no damage to the track occurred.

However, a serious collision had been avoided merely by luck. The West Coast crew were found to be at fault in disabling the TPWS, in accepting the locomotive as 'fit to run' that day despite the TPWS cock not being sealed in the 'on' position, and in failing to observe the 'yellow' warning signal. The Office of Rail & Road (ORR) are still investigating that incident, having suspended WCR from operating trains for an extended period, during which heads rolled at the rail company, and safety procedures were completely re-written - a major shake-up in WCR.

I was very surprised, therefore, to read this today (click on the link below):

West Coast banned - again!

Ex-LMS Black Five 'The Sherwood Forester'

It seems that on October 2nd, near Doncaster, a West Coast crew had again been found to have turned off the TPWS cock, this time on ex-LMS Black Five locomotive 'The Sherwood Forester'. As a result, ORR have once again withdrawn WCR's licence to operate steam locomotives on the main line.

It hardly seems credible that with the enquiry into the 'Tangmere' incident still ongoing, heads having rolled at WCR as part of the intensive safety review to enable them to be re-licensed for main line operation, that a WCR loco crew could do this again. If the Rail Magazine piece is to be believed, it seems they have!


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