Crash investigators tell LNER to assess the risk of derailment on new York to London Azuma trains

Damage to a new LNER train at Leeds depot. Photograph: RAIB / Network Rail
19 Nov 2020 @ 12.04 pm
| News

This crash has led to a call for LNER to assess the derailment risk of its new Azuma trains, which run on the York to London East Coast Main Line.

It took place a year ago, and involved an LNER Intercity Express Train – better known as an Azuma – which was empty apart from the driver.

As it approached the maintenance depot at Neville Hill in Leeds on 13 November 2019, it caught up and collided with the rear of an older LNER High Speed Train moving into the depot.

No one was injured in the accident, which happened when the Azuma was only travelling at 15 mph.

But the brand new train derailed and was badly damaged – raising concerns about how it would fare in an accident at higher speed.

Now the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has issued its report into the accident – and called on LNER to take action.

What happened

The crash scene at Neville Hill, Leeds, in November 2019. Photograph: RAIB / Network Rail

In their 55-page report, accident investigators say the collision occurred because the Azuma driver was focused on reinstating an on-board system, instead of concentrating on driving.

This was exacerbated by him unintentionally driving it too fast due to his lack of familiarity with the train.

The driver had isolated the on-board system at Leeds Station because he had been unable to correctly set up the train management system.

The report found that ambiguous documentation from Azuma manufacturers Hitachi, and LNER training systems, were contributory factors.

An RAIB spokesperson said: “The derailment occurred because the design of the Intercity Express Train [the Azuma] is susceptible to derailment in low speed collisions.”

Recommendations

An Azuma train at York Station

RAIB has made five recommendations:

  1. LNER should review the train operation manual and train management system documentation provided by Hitachi, to confirm that it has correctly interpreted it in all areas which could impact the safe operation of its Azuma trains
  2. LNER should make any necessary changes to its procedures and training to confirm that they prepare drivers to correctly interact with the train management system on Azumas
  3. Hitachi should revisit the assessment of the design of the Azuma against the requirements of the crashworthiness standard
  4. LNER should assess the risk of derailment of an Azuma following collision at low speeds, and take any necessary actions to demonstrate an acceptable risk
  5. the Rail Safety and Standards Board should consider whether it is appropriate for the crashworthiness standard to be modified.