Train crash caused by driver ‘distracted by coronavirus lockdown texts’

A train driver distracted by text messages about coronavirus restrictions caused a rail crash involving an 85mph passenger service, an investigation has found.

The collision happened near Bromsgrove station in Worcestershire on March 23, shortly after Boris Johnson announced the UK was going into lockdown.

A freight locomotive ran through a buffer stop and derailed, leading it to partially block an adjoining line where it was hit by a CrossCountry train.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) found that the driver of the locomotive watched the Prime Minister’s televised address at 8.30pm, and then drove to work.

After his locomotive departed at 9.32pm, he exchanged text messages with a family member to discuss the impact of school closures on their childcare arrangements.

This was against the policy of his employer, DB Cargo, on personal mobile phones which states they must not be used in the driving cab, the RAIB said.

The driver received a picture message at 10.38pm featuring advice on school provision, and became “distracted” by this.

Five minutes later, he realised his locomotive was approaching the buffer stop and applied the brakes, but was unable to avoid running through it.

Just 47 seconds later the CrossCountry train – which had four passengers and two crew on board – crashed into the locomotive while travelling at 85mph.

Both the passenger train and the locomotive were damaged but no-one was injured.

One of the RAIB’s three learning points for drivers related to compliance with mobile phone policies.