RAIB investigating ‘dangerous occurrence’ on the South Devon Railway

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch is investigating a “dangerous occurrence” on the South Devon Railway, in which a child nearly fell through the missing floor of a carriage lavatory.

The missing floor of the lavatory through which the child passenger nearly fell on June 22. SDR

The missing floor of the lavatory through which the child passenger nearly fell on June 22. SDR

The incident took place on June 22 on the 1pm Totnes Riverside-Buckfastleigh service, when a passenger and her small child attempted to use the lavatory in the fourth carriage, a Mk 1 Second Open.

According to the RAIB’s initial report: “On opening the door, they found that the floor of the compartment was missing, exposing the carriage wheels below. The mother was able to catch hold of the child and prevent him from falling. The child reportedly suffered minor bruising and both were shocked.

“The passenger reported the incident to the guard of the train, and the railway took action to secure the lavatory door. The incident was reported to the RAIB on June 25.

“The carriage, an ex-British Railways Mark 1 Second Open, had been put back into service after repairs to its braking system, which had required the dismantling of the lavatory floor. The floor had not been replaced and staff had placed a notice on the compartment door and attempted to secure it to prevent it being opened. This had not been effective.”

The SDR is also launching an internal inquiry, but owing to legal requirements is unable to comment further on details of the incident.

However, an SDR spokesman said: “The South Devon Railway takes this incident extremely seriously in which safety on a moving train was badly compromised and that could have resulted in serious injury to a female passenger and her young son.

“We regret that this incident took place and wish to apologise to the lady and family involved for the trauma which they suffered. The coach was taken out of service and quarantined pending the different investigations by the RAIB, ORR and SDR.                   

“On the day in question, something clearly went wrong with our safety control and hazard monitoring systems as evidenced by the incident having taken place – it simply should not have happened.

“As a result, we took steps to check all of our coaches and, subject to RAIB and ORR guidance, plan to implement an enhanced and rigorous inspection and monitoring regime for all passenger vehicles for the future.

“Despite this incident occurring, we are pleased that the SDR will continue to run its steam trains whilst the ORR and RAIB investigations are pending.

“Whilst we await the findings of the RAIB and ORR investigations, our own internal inquiry will leave no stone unturned either in order to discover how this incident occurred, how we might learn lessons from it, and how we can act accordingly in making improvements.”

Warning notices were in place explaining the lavatory in question was out of bounds. SDR

Warning notices were in place explaining the lavatory in question was out of bounds. SDR

The RAIB’s investigation will examine:

·      The events leading up to the incident, including the repairs to the carriage and the actions taken to return it to service.

·      The adequacy and suitability of the measures to secure the door.

·      The railway’s safety management system, including the arrangements for managing the competence and fitness of the staff of the carriage and wagon department, and the systems in place for assuring the safety of rolling stock in service.

The RAIB will publish the result of its findings in due course.

The SDR spokesman concluded: “We are committed to putting safety at the heart of every area of our operations and, whilst this was an isolated incident without any previous precedent, there can be no room for complacency where railway and passenger safety is concerned.

“Having been in the tourism attraction business for nearly 50 years now, the SDR has a good and proven record of safe railway operations, and our visitors can rest assured that their safety is our number one priority.”