October 6, 2010 | Mark Paradies

UK RAIB Press Release: Investigation into an incident involving a freight train near Shap, Cumbria, on 17 August 2010

The RAIB is carrying out an investigation into a serious incident involving a freight train that occurred on the West Coast Main Line in Cumbria.

At around 01:51 hrs on 17 August 2010 and around two miles from Shap summit, freight train 4S25, the 21:32 hrs northbound container service from Hams Hall to Mossend Up Yard, began rolling backwards. The train continued to roll back down a gradient of around 1 in 75 for nearly 4 minutes, covering 2.1 miles (3.4 km) and reaching a speed of around 50 mph (80 km/h).

The signaller became aware that the train was rolling backwards from indications provided by the signalling system.  He responded by arranging for the transmission of an emergency radio message to the train’s driver and setting a route into sidings at Tebay to divert the train clear of the running line. There were no other trains closely following the freight train at this time.

The driver realised that his train was moving backwards, applied the brake and brought the train safely to a stand more than a mile north of Tebay and before the rear of the train had reached the sidings. The train comprised a class 92 locomotive and 13 twin-container wagons with a total length of 498 metres and a trailing load of 663 tonnes.

The investigation will identify the sequence of events before, during and after the incident and the reasons for the driver being unaware that his train had lost forward motion and was rolling backwards.

The RAIB’s investigation is independent of any investigations by the safety authority.

The RAIB will publish a report, including any recommendations to improve safety, at the conclusion of its investigation. This report will be available on the RAIB website.

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