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White City Incident

As has been well reported elsewhere, the Central Line suffered a derailment on the westbound approach to White City station on the 11th May 2004.

The following report has been compiled from a variety of sources and I hope is an accurate reflection of what occurred and the events at the time of writing.

As more information comes to light I'll keep this page updated.

The Incident

At approximately 12:20 one pair of wheels on the leading bogie of the seventh car of a westbound train derailed over a set of points as it approached White City station. There were no reported injuries and the passengers on board (about 150) were able to leave the train though the front car which was in the platform.

Emergency Services - London Fire Brigade, London Ambulance Service and British Transport Police - were immediately requested to attend as was London Underground's Emergency Response Unit (ERU). Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate (HMRI) was also advised of the incident.

One of my correspondents informs me that the Metropolitan Police also attended and declared it the scene as a 'Crime Scene'.  Apparently on enquiring what crime was involved one of LU's managers was informed 'corporate manslaughter' which seems a little strange as no one was even injured, let alone dead!  This comment was apparently not received well and the police threatened to arrest the manager concerned for obstruction if he did not leave.

This last incident explains why it was over two hours before the ERU was finally allowed on the scene after discussions between the police and the representatives of HMRI who were by now in attendance.

In the meantime it had become apparent that the delay was likely to be protracted and a mixture of train shuttle services and bus replacement services were either put into place immediately or as soon as was possible. 

Central Line services remained suspended between North Acton and Marble Arch for the remainder of the day.

By 19:00 the train in question had been re-railed and about an hour after this 'skates' (a means whereby a train can be moved if there is a damaged bogie) had been fitted and traction current had been restored.  The train was finally fully berthed in the platform at about 20:30. This operation had been longer than initially expected as, on examination, it was discovered that there had been damage to inter-car cabling which meant that various isolations had to be made before its move could be achieved.

The train involved in the incident finally departed from White City at about 02:00 on the morning of the 12th May, arriving back in West Ruislip depot about forty-five minutes later.

The actual site of the derailment had been secured at about 21:00 and the track and resulting damage was surveyed and inspected prior to the repair work commencing. It was indicated that the repairs should take about three hours from conclusion of the inspection.

I understand that the inspection has focussed on a set of points which had already been secured to allow the running of trains and that there had been some work on these points in the recent past. There is a suggestion that the inspection revealed evidence of several other sets of wheels having ridden up the running rail in question, but these had obviously dropped back down onto the correct place.  Certainly London Underground is focussing its investigation on the track in question, as can be read in their press release here.

The repairs to the track and associated components were completed overnight and normal services were restored from the start of traffic on the 12th May.

No doubt the investigation will continue and I will add to this page when a report is released.  However London Underground were quick to quash any suggestion that this incident may have any similarities to that at Chancery Lane last year which was caused by a motor becoming detached from a train.

But it never rains but it pours!

At almost exactly the same time as this incident occurred, the Central Line was also suffering eastbound delays because of a defective train between Mile End and Stratford.  The train had suffered a 'Main Line Burst' (this where the train is suffering from a complete loss of its air supply; this can be due to a number of reasons) and which causes the train to come to a complete stop.

An assisting train was brought up to the stalled train, passengers were transferred from the defective train and the assisting train was then authorised to make a wrong direction move back to Mile End.

The defective train was able to move after remedial measures were taken (there are again a number of ways this is achieved, depending on the cause of the problem) and through services were restored about an hour and a half after the initial delay started.

Update added 14 May 2004

As I suggest above, this will inevitably be an evolving story, and this is the first update on the incident.

Firstly, a little further research has indicated that the restoration of the Central Line service on the morning after the incident wasn't quite as 'seamless' as I've suggested above; there were no major problems, but the loss of the use of one platform at White City caused some early difficulties at the start of traffic.  However, most of these seem to have been fairly short lived, and are now being successfully 'worked round'.

Secondly, London Underground has now issued the Terms of Reference for the inquiry into the incident and the press release on this can be viewed here.

Update added 7 June 2004

The interim report into this incident has now been released.

It essentially rules out all but one of the factors that may have caused the incident, and that is a track defect. However the investigations continue, and the final report is expected to be completed in July 2004.

The Interim report can be read here.

Update added 5 November 2004

The final report into this incident was released on 19 August 2004 (my apologies for not having updated this page sooner) and the Press Release from London Underground can be read here and the full report can be viewed from that page.

A number of matters are highlighted that contributed to the accident, but much focusses on poor communication of new guidelines introduced following the Camden Town incident.



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