Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), the company that runs the Gatwick Express, Southern and Thameslink lines has been fined £1m over an accident in which a passenger died after putting his head out of a train window.
GTR pleads guilty at the hearing
A sentencing hearing at Southwark Crown Court concluded earlier this week after Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) had previously pleaded guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act in May. It was therefore guilty of an offence contrary to Section 33(1)(a), in the prosecution brought by rail health and safety regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
Simon Brown, 24, died on 7 August 2016 while travelling to work on a Gatwick Express service. With the train travelling at around 98 km/h (61 mph), Brown’s head hit the column supporting a signal gantry over the track close to Balham station in south London.
Brown worked in the rail industry as an engineering technician for Hitachi Rail Europe, which manufactures and maintains rolling stock, and had been a railway enthusiast since childhood.
The window which he leaned out of was set in a carriage door in the corridor opposite the guard’s compartment and was fully accessible to the public, but there was no one on the train to monitor the use of the window at the time.
As a “droplight” window, the glass could be lowered down to around two-thirds of the length of the frame, to allow passengers to reach the external door handle and open the door when the train was stationary.
This was a common feature in trains like the Class 442 which Simon Brown was riding before more modern trains came into service. The last Class 442 was withdrawn March 2017, replaced by new trains without opening passenger windows, but the type returned to service last month with South Western Railway.
The column which he hit was sited very close to the train window, with just a 230 mm gap, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) found.
This is less than the industry recommended minimum of 450 mm for new structures where there are trains with opening passenger window. However, the gantry was built in 1952, and the 230 mm clearance was compliant with standards for existing structures.
At the sentencing hearing, Judge Pegden said that while there was a warning sticker on the door, it was “jumbled” around other notices, adding no risk assessment of the windows had been carried out.
Ian Prosser, the chief inspector of railways, said: “It is to GTR’s credit that they pleaded guilty to the offence and spared the family the pain of a protracted court case.”
“There are still some trains with droplight windows operating on the network and we have written to operators instructing them to take immediate action to prevent a similar tragedy happening again.”
Following the accident, GTR placed bars across the droplight windows of its Class 442 Gatwick Express trains. This has made it possible for passengers to lower the window and open the door, but not place their head outside the carriage.