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Tube driver overran platform by 50 metres when he fell asleep at the controls on Metropolitan line train at 12.40am near end of 8.5-hour shift as unions blame ‘punishing’ rotas

  • The incident happened on the Metropolitan Line on March 12, 2022 at 12.40am
  • The driver fell asleep between Ruislip and Ickenham and passed a red signal 

A tube driver finishing his shift in the early hours of the morning fell asleep approaching a station and blasted through a red light prompting the emergency brake to operate. 

According to an incident report which had been released under the Freedom of Information Act, the Metropolitan Line driver fell asleep at the controls between Ruislip and Ickenham in West London around 12.40am on March 12. 

The report said the train went through a red light at the end of Ickenham station when the automatic emergency braking system stopped the locomotive, 50 metres past the end of the platform.  

The failsafe system was introduced on the London tube network after the Moorgate disaster in February 1975 when a packed commuter train ploughed into a wall at the end of the line after the driver failed to stop at a red light. The accident killed 43 people including the driver, Leslie Newson. A further 74 people were seriously injured. 

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According to the Evening Standard, nobody was injured following last year’s incident on the Metropolitan Line, although the driver has been taken off duty while an investigation continues. 

A Metropolitan Line train passed through a red light in March 2022 after the driver fell asleep during the early hours of the morning, stock image

A Metropolitan Line train passed through a red light in March 2022 after the driver fell asleep during the early hours of the morning, stock image

The train came to a halt when an automatic safety system applied the brakes, stopping the carriages some 50 metres from the platform

The train came to a halt when an automatic safety system applied the brakes, stopping the carriages some 50 metres from the platform

Alsef, who represent train drivers said a ‘punishing’ shift pattern is the main cause behind driver fatigue. 

It is reported that seven tube drivers contacted TfL’s own safety officers to warn them that they were ‘feeling overwhelming exhaustion’ and ‘starting to fall asleep’ at work.  

Unions claim TfL wants to cut back on the breaks drivers can take while on shift, but the employer denies this. 

Finn Brennan, Alsef’s London Underground organiser told the Standard the union has ‘pushed for years to get Underground management to take the issue of driver fatigue seriously’.

‘Drivers work a punishing shift system that often means getting up at 3.30am, or earlier, to travel to work one week and not finishing until after 01.30am the next.

The driver fell asleep between Ruislip and Ickenham on the Metropolitan Line,

The driver fell asleep between Ruislip and Ickenham on the Metropolitan Line, 

The safety system was installed after the Moorgate Disaster of 1975 after a train driver failed to slow down his locomotive as it approached the end of the tunnel at Moorgate Station

The safety system was installed after the Moorgate Disaster of 1975 after a train driver failed to slow down his locomotive as it approached the end of the tunnel at Moorgate Station

‘Shift workers can often be prevented from sleeping when off duty by things outside their control such as building work or noise in the neighbourhood.’ 

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TfL said safety is the company’s ‘top priority’ and has systems in place to allow workers to alert them if they are experiencing fatigue. 

A spokesperson said: ‘These reports show our colleagues are aware of the risks and feel they will be supported if they report it. It also helps us improve our work to manage fatigue.’

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