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Train 'out of control for 3 miles'

A runaway commuter train overshot a station by two-and-a-half miles because it did not have any sand on board to help with braking in poor weather conditions.

The 6.45am Southeastern service from Charing Cross to Hastings overran Stonegate station in East Sussex by 2.43 miles on November 8, 2010, just after 8am, despite the driver applying emergency braking, Maidstone Crown Court was told.

Prosecutor Richard Evans said: "Effectively, the train was out of control for 3.2 miles from when braking started to when the train stopped."

He said inadequate logging procedures and a lack of communication between Southeastern employees meant that the train travelled 929 miles after a sand refill report was generated and that the train was likely to have had no sand on board for about two days when it overran Stonegate station.

Southeastern pleaded guilty in May to two charges under two sections of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.

The court heard that leaf mulch on the line meant that conditions between the steel rails and train wheels were much like "oil on a non-stick frying pan".

Neil Garnham QC, representing Southeastern, said that even if everything that should have been done had been done, the train would still have overshot Stonegate station by up to 0.8 miles because of poor rail adhesion.

Judge Andrew Patience QC adjourned sentencing until later.

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