The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has made six recommendations following a chaotic evacuation of a train at Holland Park underground station on 25 August last year. Passengers on a westbound Central Line train exited the carriages by climbing out of the inter-connecting doors over the safety barrier after seeing smoke and smelling burning inside the train.
Although the smoke and burning smell were caused by an over-heating motor, the report states that passengers were at virtually no risk of fire, but were “at risk of injury from falling in the confined space between the cars, on to the track.”
It said that a request for the train to be held in platform while the problem was investigated was not followed and the train started to depart when passengers in several parts of the train activated the emergency alarm stopping the train part-way in the tunnel. The report states that if the train had been held as requested, this issue would be unlikely to have happened.
Additionally, the report said that London Underground staff were too slow in controlling the situation and communicating with those on-board. This led to ‘rising fear’ spreading through the train when passengers perceived little or no response from the driver and could not see any staff on the platform to deal with the situation. It took station staff two and a half minutes to appear on the platform, but by this time passengers had already started to ‘self-evacuate’.
Responding to the report, Peter McNaught, London Underground’s Operations Director for the Bakerloo, Central & Victoria lines said:
“London Underground has an excellent and continually improving safety record and such incidents on the Tube are very rare. We recognise that some of our customers involved will have found the incident distressing and we have apologised.
“Our investigation found that a motor defect caused smoke and dust to be released from the train, but that there was no fire and no risk or injury to customers. Our staff responded immediately and were on the platform within three minutes to assist those who were leaving the train.
“We have fully assisted the RAIB in their ongoing investigation, as well as carrying out our own, and we will act upon all of the recommendations.”
Recommendations the report makes include reviewing the set up in the drivers’ cab, improvements to staff training, the use of hand-held radios when drivers need to leave their cab, and prompt and accurate reporting of issues by London Underground after they occur.