Report 05/2020 Loss of brake control on a sleeper train approaching Edinburgh



At about 07:25 hrs on Thursday 1 August 2019, the driver of the Edinburgh portion of the Lowlander sleeper service from London Euston was unable to control the train’s speed on the approach to Edinburgh. He was unable to comply with the maximum permitted speed at Haymarket East Junction, and would have been unable to stop the train before the junction if there had been a conflicting train movement. The driver was also unable to stop the train at Edinburgh Waverley station. The train came to a stop approximately 650 metres beyond its intended stopping point at Edinburgh Waverley platform 11, after the train manager operated an emergency button in a coach.

The train crew subsequently identified that an air isolation cock between the locomotive and the coaches was closed when it should have been open. After identifying this and obtaining permission from the signaller, they reversed the train back into the platform where the passengers alighted. There were no injuries and no damage occurred.

The driver was unable to stop the train because the brake pipe isolating cock on the leading end of the leading coach was closed. This prevented the brakes on all the coaches from operating when demanded by the driver, although the driver still had control of the brake systems on the locomotive.

The isolating cock became closed during coupling operations when the Edinburgh train was split from the Glasgow train at Carstairs station; this happened after the mandated brake continuity test had been completed. The closure of the valve was therefore undetected prior to the train’s departure from Carstairs. The effectiveness of the brake systems on the locomotive also masked the absence of the coach brakes until the train was approaching Slateford, on the approach to Edinburgh.


RAIB has made two recommendations. One is addressed to RSSB to change the wording of the railway rule book to make it clear that the brake continuity test should be undertaken after all coupling-related activities have been completed. The second is addressed to Caledonian Sleeper to review the vulnerability of the isolating cocks on its rolling stock, to prevent inadvertent operation by persons or objects.

RAIB has also identified six learning points, relating to procedures for coupling and uncoupling trains, incorporating risk mitigations into operational procedures, risk assessing the running brake test, using the ‘train in distress’ signal, application of standards to rolling stock, and access to recorded train data.


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