A TRAIN crash in Bromsgrove was caused by the driver being distracted by a series of text messages about the Coronavirus lockdown, an investigation has found.
At 10.44pm on March 23 a class 66 locomotive crashed into a buffer stop at the end of a siding around 700metres south of Bromsgrove Station. It derailed and then less than a minute later a class 170 passenger train running between Cardiff Central and Birmingham New Street struck the corner of the locomotive but stayed on the track.
The passenger train suffered extensive damage to one side of all three vehicles and the locomotive suffered damage to the left corner.
There were four passengers and two crew members on board the passenger train and it was fortunate there were no reported injuries.
The probe by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) examined what happened before the collision and during it.
Prior to the journey, the unnamed driver of the locomotive had watched Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement about the lockdown where people had been told to stay at home and that the schools were to be shut.
On his way to work the unnamed driver received a call from a family member amidst concerns over childcare because of the pending restrictions.
The driver began his journey from Bescot Yard, near Walsall, at 9.32pm. Although the departure was 27 minutes late from the timetabled schedule it was possible to make up the time before Bromsgrove.
After the train passed Kings Norton and, during a period of 11 minutes, the driver received three text messages to his personal mobile and had sent four replies – all relating to childcare concerns and school closures.
At 10.38pm he received a picture message showing advice from the school relating to a provision and he replied to the message.
The report said he was distracted by the picture message and at 10.43pm the driver became aware of where he was and put the brakes full-on. Four seconds later it crashed into the buffer.
As the driver got out to inspect the damage he became aware of the lights and sound of the passenger train which then struck the locomotive at 85mph.
The passenger train driver immediately applied the brakes and brought the vehicle to a stop.
He reported the incident to the signaller who shut the lines to other trains.
The RAIB said the crash was caused by the distraction of the locomotive driver and the passenger train driver not having sufficient time to stop and avoid the collision.
It made one recommendation to Network Rail to review its processes and standards for managing buffer stop collision risk on non-platform terminal tracks.
RAIB has also identified three learning points for drivers, relating to compliance with mobile phone policies in the driving cab, informing signallers of accidents and safe exit from trains during an incident.