Paddington derailment driver 'had fasted 16 hours'

Paddington derailment Image copyright Network Rail sources
Image caption Delays continued for three days following the derailment in June

A driver on a Ramadan fast had not eaten for 16 hours before his train was derailed, a report has found.

The crash, near Paddington Station, affected services for days.

A Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report said it was "unable to determine" whether fasting and interruption to sleep was a factor in the crash.

But the investigation recognised there was research showing fasting can affect people's concentration levels.

The train, which was not carrying any passengers, was automatically derailed after passing a red signal at about 18:30 BST on 16 June.

Fasting and driving

The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) has published research on the effects of fasting on fitness to drive.

It says fasting can have a range of effects including tiredness, dizziness, dehydration, headache, and a reduction in concentration, prompting safety concerns.

The report advises workers to ask for physically demanding tasks to be delayed until after Ramadan, and says managers must be aware of the potential effects of fasting on their staff.

Employers are also called upon to provide as much flexibility as possible, as well as health and well-being guidance for those fasting.

Investigators found the driver had woken at 02:30 to eat a light meal, and went back to bed at 03:30 for a further seven hours. He did not eat anything else before the derailment.

He said he went through a red signal because he thought it didn't apply to his train, the report said.

The derailment damaged overhead power lines which affected Great Western services for days.

Image copyright Network Rail
Image caption Network Rail deployed 50 engineers to work on the incident

The driver, who was not injured in the crash, had waited on the sidings for a signal to clear before setting off to platform one, the report says.

But a train on the platform was yet to leave, and the "stop" signal was clearly visible - the driver did not realise that it applied to his train.

Immediately after he passed the signal he tried to apply the brake, but it was too late to stop the automatic derailment.

The RAIB report makes four safety recommendations, including that drivers should refresh their knowledge of track layout and signals on routes they don't travel regularly.

Image copyright Network Rail
Image caption The Great Western Railway train came off the track automatically when the driver went through a red signal

Great Western Railway (GWR) said it had "clear policies on fatigue management" and aimed "to prevent the key causes of distraction and loss of concentration".

A GWR spokesperson said "Such incidents are extremely rare and the safety arrangements in place at the location prevented a more serious event.

"We continually brief our drivers, regularly monitor their competence, and will continue to work with our industry partners to improve the safety of the railway."

A spokesperson from train drivers' union ASLEF said: "There wasn't a proven link between fasting and the cause of derailment in this case.

"But it has been discussed generally how people who are fasting are at more risk of fatiguing.

"We are speaking to employers to make sure provisions are in place for those who are fasting. We want both sides to be aware of the potential effects."

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