Why more trains are failing to stop at red signals

More services and worse punctuality leads to highest danger rate in a decade

Railway red light
(Image credit: Lennart Preiss/Getty Images)

The number of trains failing to stop at red signals is the highest in a decade, prompting a review of rail safety.

Network Rail and all train operators are being asked to take action to try to reduce the risk of trains crashing into each other, says The Times.

In the 12 months to August 2019, a total of 322 signals were passed at “danger”. That number includes ten examples of trains reaching the “conflict point” where two railway lines pass over one another, creating a high risk of collision.

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The figures come 20 years after the Ladbroke Grove rail disaster in west London that killed 31 people and injured 258.

The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), established in the wake of the Ladbroke Grove crash, has suggested that the rise is linked to there now being more trains and declining punctuality.

A July 2019 report from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said: “There has been a worrying rise in the underlying risk from Signals Passed at Danger (SPADs).”

It adds: “RSSB has produced work which suggests that because there are more trains on the network and punctuality levels are declining, drivers are seeing more red signals, which in turn increases the opportunity for SPADs.”

The increase could be down to increased fatigue and loss of concentration among train drivers, reports the Times. Mark Phillips, the RSSB’s chief executive, told the paper that while there had been significant improvements since Ladbroke Grove, the challenge was “how you manage drivers to ensure they keep continuous attention”.

An industry-wide survey of rail workers found that 22% felt excessive levels of sleepiness, leading to fatigue, reports the Global Railway Review.

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