Driver fatigue blamed for runaway train in Shap

Driver fatigue was the likely reason a freight train rolled backwards along a stretch of the West Coast Main Line in Cumbria, a report has concluded.

The train, which had 13 wagons and weighed 715-tonnes, travelled two miles at more than 50mph at Shap last August.

No-one was hurt and the train was stopped by the driver before it smashed into sidings at nearby Tebay.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch concluded the driver suffered fatigue as the result of working night shifts.

The incident happened in the early hours of 17 August 2010, when the northbound freight train was travelling uphill between Tebay and Shap.

A signaller noticed the train had come to a stop and then started rolling backwards.

'Not sufficiently alert'

The train reached 51mph in reverse before the driver, who was working a first night shift after a number of day shifts, realised what was happening, and braked.

The RAIB report said a derailment could have resulted and has made a number of recommendations to train operator DB Schenker about how night shifts are managed.

It has also urged the Office of Rail Regulation to update guidance to train operators on how they deal with potentially tired drivers.

The report concluded: "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.

"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."

DB Schenker and Network Rail co-operated with the investigation.

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