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Tube train crash was caused by draughts, says 'draft' report

PUBLISHED: 15:55 06 February 2008 | UPDATED: 11:07 13 July 2010

Derailed tube train and (right) the dislodged blanket that caused it

Derailed tube train and (right) the dislodged blanket that caused it

DRAUGHTS of wind from passing tube trains are now known to have dislodged a fire blanket in a tunnel storage area which then fell onto the track, causing last

By Mike Brooke

mike.brooke@archant.co.uk

DRAUGHTS of wind from passing tube trains are now known to have dislodged a fire blanket in a tunnel storage area which then fell onto the track, causing last summer's derailment on the London Underground at Mile End.

The wind rushing through the narrow twin bore of the Central Line unfurled the 5ft roll of fire-resistant material that ended up on one of the rails 500ft into the westbound tunnel from the station.

It had been stored in a passage the previous night and weighted down.

But the constant rush of air from trains every few minutes in the narrow tunnel eventually loosened it, Department of Transport investigators have found.

The underlying cause was a "lack of a comprehensive risk analysis" for using fire blankets close to the tracks, a Rail Accident Investigation Branch report says.

The wheels of a tube train struck the material, causing three carriage wheels to jump the rail.

There were 520 commuters packed onto the eight carriages picking up speed on the downward sloping tunnel towards Bethnal Green during the Thursday morning rush-hour on July 5.

The driver applied the emergency brake. But it was another 150 yards before the train could be brought to a halt.

There were no serious injuries, says the report, but 20 passengers had to have medical treatment after being brought to the surface at Mile End. One passenger was taken by ambulance to the Royal London Hospital.

It took two hours to rescue the trapped passengers and escort them back through the tunnel to the station.

The derailment damaged the first two carriages, the track and a signal.

Now five recommendations have been made by the Investigation department, which include improved staff training, better storage methods of materials around an operational railway and more careful use of fire blankets near tracks.

But a key factor in the findings is the effects of wind pressure in the deep level tunnels which have to be taken into account during maintenance work.

The report, however, does not lay blame on anyone. The sole purpose of the investigation is to "prevent future accidents and incidents and improve railway safety," the investigation team points out.

It does not establish blame, liability or carry out prosecutions.

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KEEPING YOU 'UP TO SPEED' WITH THE NEWS

Here's how the East London Advertiser's news-team reported the Central Line derailment on this website on the day 520 passengers were trapped at Mile End.

PASSENGERS have been reliving the horror of this-morning's train derailment when they were trapped in a tunnel with smoke filling the carriages.

Some thought there had been a bomb which caused panic among those packed into the derailed train.

It was just two days before the second anniversary of the 7/7 London suicide bombings which killed 52 people on July 7, 2005.

"People were screaming and we thought the worst, that it was a bomb and we were all going to die," said Phillip Korniets, from Essex.

"There was bumping and then suddenly the carriage filled with smoke."

Claire Marshall, 25, from Stratford, said: "People had to cover their mouths to breathe.

"Some were having panic attacks as we could hear alarms going off."

John Sweeney, 47, from Woodford, said: "There was a stampede to get to the doors.

"The panic spread and there were people screaming.

"But once we found out it wasn't a bomb, people calmed down."

The passengers from the stricken train were led by rescuers along the tunnel back to the station. Some emerged into the daylight crying, others hugging one another with relief, phoning relatives to say they were safe.

Six ambulances and six fire-engines stood by as police cordoned off both Bethnal Green and Mile End stations.

A second train was trapped behind the derailment with more passengers having to be evacuated.

Maintenance equipment is thought to have fallen on the track in the westbound tunnel between Mile End and Bethnal Green, which caused the 9.05am derailment at the height of the morning rush-hour.

Metronet, the much-criticised company brought in to maintain and modernise the Central Line, said in statement: "Our initial reports suggest a bale of material became dislodged from its storage in a tunnel cross-passage.

"We have ordered all works to be suspended tonight, with the exception of essential maintenance."

The Central has had a run of bad luck in recent years.

A train was derailed at Chancery Lane in 2003, injuring 31 passengers, after a carriage motor came adrift and was dragged along the track for three miles from the same spot in the same westbound tunnel, between Mile End and Bethnal Green.

It led to a recall of the entire fleet of trains for urgent modifications, which put the line out for three months.

In 1994, hundreds of passengers were evacuated through an emergency shaft between Mile End and Stratford when a morning rush-hour train broke down in the tunnel.

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News team: Mike Brooke, Ted Jeory, Fong Chau, Jessica Smith, pictures Rob Logan


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