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Rail firm prosecuted for overshoot

A rail company is to be prosecuted after one of its trains overshot a station by nearly two-and-a-half miles.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said it had launched a criminal prosecution against the Southeastern train company for breaches of health and safety law.

In November 2010, a Southeastern train overran Stonegate station in East Sussex by 2.43 miles. Southeastern is facing charges under two sections of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.

This involves what the ORR said was the company's failure to protect the safety of its employees and those using the railway, by not providing an effective system of work to reliably ensure the availability of sand on trains for use as part of the braking system. Sand, under certain seasonal weather conditions, such as leaves on the line, assists braking performance.

The first hearing has been scheduled for May 24 at Sevenoaks Magistrates' Court in Kent. The incident, at 8am on November 8 2010, involved a train travelling from Charing Cross in London to Hastings in East Sussex.

In a report into the incident last November, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said the train failed to stop at Stonegate station, running on to a point 3.22 miles from when the brakes were first applied. The report said the rail adhesion conditions were poor on that day due to high winds causing fresh leaf fall, and the onset of rain. The line had been treated to improve adhesion the previous evening.

The RAIB said it was likely that the train failed to stop at Stonegate station because there was almost certainly no sand in the sand hoppers at the leading end.

It added that if sand had been present, the train braking system would have deposited sand on to the rail head, improving the available adhesion and allowing the train to stop in a much shorter distance. The RAIB made three recommendations to Southeastern to ensure there would be no repeat of the incident.

A spokeswoman for Southeastern said: "We are disappointed that ORR has chosen to prosecute. As we made clear at the time, this was a significant incident which we have taken very seriously.

"In conjunction with Network Rail we undertook a thorough investigation and also worked closely with the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) on its investigation and have fully implemented all RAIB's recommendations. We never compromise on safety and we have made changes to procedures to further reduce the possibility of this extremely rare event occurring again."


From Belfast Telegraph