Historic steam trains could be forced off the tracks unless money is spent to ensure they comply with tough new health and safety laws, a railway boss has said.
Heritage railway companies have been ordered to make changes to the windows and doors of their 1950s-built Mark I former British Rail carriages to prevent passengers leaning out to take photographs while trains are in motion.
New measures ordered by ORR
The new safety measures were ordered by regulator the ORR (Office of Rail and Road) following the tragic death of a railway commuter in 2016 on the Gatwick Express, who died when his head hit a steel column by the side of the track. These new measures apply not only to steam trains but also to more modern trains which are still in service and still have drop-down windows installed.
After the hearing ORR Director of Safety Ian Prosser, who is also chief inspector of railways, said: “There are still some trains with these windows operating and we have written to operators instructing them to take action to prevent a similar tragedy happening again.”
The heritage trains must have bars fitted across their windows, which allows access to the exterior handle but means passengers cannot lean out. They must also fit central locking systems so that doors cannot be opened until trains have come to stop at a station.
A spokesman for the Northern Belle, Britain’s version of the iconic Orient Express, said:
“This is going to cost millions – around £20,000 a carriage just to install central locking on each carriage. But you cannot put a price on safety and obviously we will comply as soon as possible.
“Bars over the drop-down windows will spoil the appearance of these Mark I carriages, though, some of which have been in use for up to 70 years without any other incident of this kind.”
Heritage railways across the UK have been given until 2023 to make the required changes.