Runaway Tube train could have caused ‘terrible tragedy’
17:25 28 February 2013
London Underground and two associated firms have been fined after a Tube train hurtled through seven stations on the Northern Line before it was stopped.
The incident, which took place on August 13 2010, started when the 39-tonne maintenance wagon rolled downhill at 30mph without brakes from Highgate and into central London.
A train in front of it was told to keep going and not stop, while its passengers were told to run to the front carriages, the Old Bailey heard.
London Underground, Tube Lines Ltd and Schweerbau GMBH pleaded guilty to endangering passengers and staff under Health and Safety law.
They were each fined £100,000.
Judge Richard Hone said: “There was the potential of terrible tragedy.”
He said the runaway train was out of control for four miles during 16 minutes.
“To those involved it must have seemed an extremely frightening eternity,” he added.
The court was told that a fault had now been remedied and the incident was extremely unlikely to occur again.
Prosecutor Jonathan Ashley-Norman told the court that the rail grinding unit was being towed when it broke away during the early morning.
It started rolling downhill without brakes from Highgate and into central London in August, 2010.
“It could have led to tragedy but thanks to the immediate actions of LU staff, no one was hurt,” said Mr Ashley-Norman.
Control staff watched helplessly as they saw the flashing lights of both vehicles turn into one as the grinder got within 600 metres of the train.
Mr Ashley-Norman said attempts were made to slow the runaway train down using points at Camden Town and Mornington Crescent, and the trains were diverted onto different lines.
It eventually stopped at Warren Street when it reached an upward incline.
“In the event, and fortunately, no one was harmed,” added Mr Ashley-Norman.
Keith Morton, QC, for the Tube companies, said: “London Underground is one of the safest railways in the world - if not the safest.”
Speaking afterwards, London Underground director Mike Strzelecki said: “This was clearly a serious incident and LU and Tube Lines acted quickly to investigate its causes and take action to ensure that the risk of such a rare incident recurring was minimised.
“Following the incident LU immediately put in place procedures to remove the engineering train and tow-bar from use on the railway.
“Since then LU and Tube Lines have put in place even tighter approvals and controls for the design and use of all such equipment.””