District Line a Danger Line?

London Underground ordered to improve safety procedures

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London Underground has said it "takes very seriously" concerns expressed by the rail regulator about safety levels on the Edgware Road to Wimbledon branch of the District Line.

Earlier year there were three occasions when trains passed red "danger" signals,

February 23: at West Kensington a train set off an automatic braking system, which means the signal is treated as being passed at red even if it is not. Points were not secured, risking a derailment. Communications were described as “poor”.

February 24: at Earl's Court, a westbound service passed through a signal at red in error.

March 17: a train was ordered to pass a red signal after a points failure without the authorisation of the appropriate senior manager.

On each occasion, Tube workers apparently failed to follow strict rules on what to do, including securing points to prevent derailments. The inspectors reportedly also uncovered evidence showing that the official report of one incident differed from automatic voice recordings of drivers and signalling staff.

The regulator, the Office of Rail Regulation has now written to London Underground warning them they must improve their procedures or face legal action.

If suitable improvements were not to be implemented, the regulator has the power to close the line down.

A spokesman for the Office of Rail Regulation said: " A letter the ORR sent to LU relates to three incidents where a train passed a signal at danger in the High Street Kensington area.

"We have requested a plan to address the issues we have raised in the letter by 15 September, which is more to do with how LU manage incidents once a train has passed a signal at danger, rather than the actual passing of signals."

Steve Grant, LU district organiser for Aslef, the train drivers' union, and a former Tube driver, said: “We have repeatedly warned of the dangers of putting train service above safety of passengers.

“It seems the reports of some incidents have been falsified or covered up and this gives me great concern. LU must take action immediately. The consequences of not doing so would be disastrous.”

A spokeswoman for LU said: "Safety is our top priority and London Underground has an excellent safety record.

"We take this issue very seriously and are investigating thoroughly. We will respond to the ORR once those investigations have been completed."

August 28, 2009