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Risk from trains passing red signals has been cut by 90% in 20 years

Twenty years after the Southall rail crash, the RSSB has said that the risk of trains passing red signals has been cut by more than 90 per cent.

On September 19, seven people were killed and 139 injured when a high speed train from Swansea passed a signal at danger and collided with a freight train which was crossing its path.

Two years later 31 people died and more than 500 left injured in a train crash at Ladbroke Grove, also caused by a signal passed at danger (SPAD).

Since then no one has died as a result of a SPAD thanks to investment in the train protection and warning systems, better briefing and driver training.

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The RSSB said that the industry’s efforts to reduce SPAD risk have been informed by nearly 100 separate pieces of research over the last 15 years.

This has led to a wave of change in understanding the ‘human factors’ in the underlying causes of SPADs, including: signal design and layouts, driver competence management, fatigue and health, driver workload, non-technical skills, safety critical communications, as well as the things that cause trains to approach red aspects in the first place.

While huge strides have been made in safety, rail companies are aware of the dangers of complacency and have committed to reduce risk even further.

RSSB’s director of system safety and health George Bearfield said, ‘Southall was a huge tragedy, and we must first and foremost take time to remember what this did to families and friends of those who died and were injured 20 years ago, as well as everyone who played a part in the response, at the time, and in the learning that followed.

’20 years on and the railways are much safer with the risk from signals passed at danger a fraction of what it was. Industry wants to build on this success and has set itself tougher targets to reduce the risk even further.’


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