The Irish Examiner reports this morning that on December 8th 2013, two trains travelling towards each other on the same track on the Mallow-Killarney railway line narrowly avoided a head-on collision when they came to a stop just 175 metres apart at Millstreet station.
It reports that the cause was that one of the drivers failed to stop at warning signals. An accident was only prevented after a signal controller became aware of the danger and contacted the drivers to stop their trains. Read the full story on today’s Irish Examiner, and the investigation report below.
In 1964 there was another nearly head-on collision at Millstreet Station this time involving a runaway train:
On the night of Monday May 11 1964 a special goods train was derailed at Millstreet and blocked the Mallow-Tralee line. The special was headed by loco A54 and had originated at the Rathmore siding of Messrs Fry-Cadbury where it was loaded with chocolate crumb. It was scheduled to cross the 02:25 Mallow-Tralee mail goods at Millstreet but seemingly got out of control on the two mile fall at 1 in 154/124 approaching the station. The Millstreet signalman, fearing a collision between the runaway and the mail goods, apparently rerouted the train through the loop into the yard but it failed to take the curves and derailed at the north end of the station. A54 and fifteen wagons of its train left the rails and piled debris across the entire station. Up morning trains of May 12 ran to Millstreet and Rathmore respectively but the line was cleared in the afternoon sufficiently for traffic to be resumed. – from Irish Rail Fans’ News July 1964
(that’s all we know about the accident, it’s recent enough, so some local people should know more about it).
Note: this 1964 train accident is not to be confused with the incident when an artic lorry overturned outside St.Mary’s graveyard in the mid 80s, spilling bags and bags of chocolate crumb onto the footpath.
The summary report on the 2013 near accident from the Railway Accident Investigation Unit Report reads as follows:
SPAD at Signal TL223, Millstreet, on the 8th December 2013
On the 8th December 2013, the IÉ 11:50 hours (hrs) passenger service from Tralee to Heuston (Train A303) was running late. In an effort to minimise delays, the Centralised Traffic Control (CTC) Signalman and the Traffic Regulator made the decision to change the crossing point of Train A303 and the 12:10 hrs Cork to Tralee passenger service (Train A304) to Millstreet Station (Cork), instead of Banteer Station (the routes are on a bi-directional single line track with crossing loops). It was expected that Train A304 would arrive first at Millstreet Station (a one-platform station), disembark passengers and shunt into the crossing loop. However, both trains approached Millstreet Station at the same time. As Train A303 approached Millstreet Station, it passed signal TL223 at danger without authority. The SPAD resulted in the two trains occupying the same section of line, travelling towards each other, until the CTC Signalman put out a general call for the trains to stop. Both train drivers applied the brakes and the trains came to a stop 175 metres (m) apart on the platform at Millstreet Station. IÉ awarded a SPAD Risk Ranking (SRR) of 21 to this Category A SPAD therefore categorising it as a high risk SPAD.
The RAIU investigation found that the immediate cause of the SPAD was that Driver A303 did not see that Signal TL223 was displaying a stop aspect and continued driving towards Millstreet Station. Possible contributory factors to Train A303 arriving at Millstreet Station Platform were:
- The current basic overrun protection in the Millstreet area does not provide sufficient protection to trains on single lines with crossings loops;
- Driver A303 lost situational awareness, as he thought Signal TL223 was displaying a green aspect;
- Driver A303 had an incorrect expectation that Signal TL223 would be displaying a green aspect as he had never approached the signal displaying a red light; this incorrect expectation was reinforced by the fact that the barriers for Level Crossing XE061 were lowered on his approach and there were passengers waiting on the platform. Furthermore, he had not been made aware by radio or by any other means and he was unaware that the crossing point for the trains had changed;
- Driver A303 did not apply any form of Error Prevention Technique (EPT) on the approach to the yellow aspect of Signal TLR223 to remind him that Signal TL223 would be displaying a red aspect;
- Driver A303 did not apply any EPT to refocus on his driving duties after he had become stressed, distracted and preoccupied by the events at Killarney Station during the same journey, where two young children were left unattended, which resulted in Driver A303 having to return to the station. Driver A303 had also become distracted by the fact that he was unable to provide relief duties for another service, due to the late running of the train. Driver A303 may
have also become distracted by the speed board, located directly after Signal TL223; and the flashing lights of Level Crossing XE061;
- The CTC Signalman and the Traffic Regulator were unaware that they had inadvertently reduced the overrun protection for the trains, as they allowed Train A304 onto the platform instead of holding it outside the station.
Underlying causes associated with the incident, include:
- The Traffic Regulator’s Manual does not include specific instructions or any form of dynamic risk assessment in relation to the alteration of the scheduled movements of trains;
- IÉ’s Lineside Signal Sighting & Spacing Signalling Standard (I-SIG-2043) does not adequately address the risks associated with distraction features in the vicinity of signals, in particular, the positioning of speed boards in the vicinity of signals.
15 The root cause associated with the incident was:
- Non-technical skills, such as EPT, are not adequately promoted, trained for, assessed or monitored during driving training and driver competency management as outlined in IÉ-RU’s suite of Operations SMS documents (namely OPS-SMS-3.0, OPS-SMS-3.1, OPS-SMS-3.2 & OPS-SMS-3.5).