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RHDR - Serious operating irregularity at Romney Sands

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by mdewell, Sep 13, 2019.

  1. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Agreed, that is how I read it. Control at New Romney devised a new plan for crossing, which they communicated to the New Romney signalman. The subsequent chain of events then resulted in New Romney Signalman and Romney Sands not coming to a clear understanding of the plan; the senior person at Romney Sands not adequately supervising the work of the trainee; and compounded by the driver not correctly checking the authority they were given to proceed (i.e. taking a red ticket without sight of the red token). None of which can be directly laid at the door of the controller as Julian seems to be suggesting.

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
  2. jma1009

    jma1009 Member

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    Hi Paul42,

    You are quite correct, but this isn't made clear from the RAIB report. Your post is much clearer than the report!

    It is perhaps worth adding that the Electric Key Token system rendered the staff and ticket system obsolete, and I am surprised the RHDR still use the staff and ticket for it's single line sections south of New Romney, especially if the operation of the staff and ticket system relies on in effect on station staff to act as signallers.

    I still consider the report was lacking in comment on Control. It is one thing for Control to say there is an alteration to the working timetable. It is quite a different matter for Control to ask Romney Sands to issue a red ticket when it must have known at the time Romney Sands did not have the red token off train 5 at the time. For Control to authorise a red ticket to be issued is not train planning, but signalling. Control ought also to have known who they were speaking to, and if they had a dual role as a signalling centre, ought to have made it clear what procedure must be followed re the tokens and the issuing of the ticket.

    To comment in the report of a jovial conversation on the platform at Romney Sands, without further comment on the deficiencies of what Control stated to the Trainee Stationmaster, seems to me to be a failing of the 'safety digest' report.

    Cheers,
    Julian
     
  3. jma1009

    jma1009 Member

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    Hi Tom,

    There was no signaller at Romney Sands - just the station staff!

    Cheers,
    Julian
     
  4. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I think we're getting hung up on the term "control". I see signallers at the central box also exercising a control function - an age old way of working - on a relatively simple railway line. To differentiate tightly between the two different aspects of their role seems very pernickety, especially when the failings of Abermule in 1921 - inexperience, weak supervision, poor communication, failure to check instructions - were demonstrated in spades.
     
  5. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I didn't say there was. There was though a signalman at New Romney (which is what I said - read it again), and the communication was between that person and the station staff at Romney Sands. So you are incorrect when you say:

    "It is quite a different matter for Control to ask Romney Sands to issue a red ticket when it must have known at the time Romney Sands did not have the red token off train 5 at the time. For Control to authorise a red ticket to be issued is not train planning, but signalling. Control ought also to have known who they were speaking to, and if they had a dual role as a signalling centre, ought to have made it clear what procedure must be followed re the tokens and the issuing of the ticket."
    The report makes it quite clear that the Controller did not directly ask Romney Sands to issue a ticket: rather, they communicated with the signaller at New Romney, who communicated with the staff at Romney Sands. The wording used in the report is:

    " .. the controller instructed the signaller at New Romney to contact Romney Sands station and tell the stationmaster there to issue a ticket to train number 12."
    There is an ambiguity there in the wording of the report. You seem to be interpreting it that the controller made a direct request to issue a ticket there and then; however, I think you can interpret it as having an implicit "... when it appropriate to do so". Ultimately we don't know the precise conversations held, but I don't believe, based on how I read the report, you are correct in where you see the balance of responsibilities lying.

    Tom
     
  6. jma1009

    jma1009 Member

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    Hi Tom,

    That is Control issuing a signaller instruction albiet via New Romney, to Romney Sands.

    Cheers,
    Julian
     
  7. torgormaig

    torgormaig Well-Known Member Friend

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    Indeed, but control did not say to issue the ticket to train number 12 before train number 5 had arrived at Romney Sands, which is what happened. To me the clear instruction was for train 12 to proceed on the ticket after train 5 had arrived (and all concerned had seen the token) so that train 5 could follow it through the section later with the token. That is how the staff (or token in this case) and ticket system is intended to work.

    If you want to see another single line collision that was the result of lax operating procedures, look up the collision on the Zig Zag Railway in Australia in 2011. Although it did not involve passenger trains two staff members were taken to hospital and the accident report pulls no punches in what the cause was or where the blame lied. The regulators closed the line down shortly afterwards until they sorted themselves out and it has yet to reopen.

    Peter
     
  8. pmh_74

    pmh_74 Member

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    On the wiki page it says that the German accident was due to the driver of one of the trains (interestingly perhaps, the 'regular timetabled' train not the 'extra') departing into the single line section without the proper authority. Thus far, very similar. What I'll agree it doesn't say is how/why this happened, which is why I wrote "I'm not sure what system the German line used/uses". I would like to know more, but it seems difficult to find out, even by digging into the links in the article (and running them through the translator, which brings its own problems of course). The court case seems to have pinned the blame on the driver & conductor (I assume that's the guard, to us in the UK?) but that doesn't necessarily mean theirs were the only failings, of course.

    Interestingly - although clearly the vehicles were of secondary importance, given the number of injuries - the visiting loco No.20 looked like a total write-off after that accident, but was rebuilt, at Oberweisenthal. I actually visited Oberweisenthal about 3 months after the accident but as you can imagine the loco was buried in the workshops with no public access (it probably didn't help that there was thick snow and temperatures of -20C that day, either, but I digress...)
     
  9. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    I believe that Germany uses train orders on single lines
     
  10. andrewtoplis

    andrewtoplis Member

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    Or it is control instructing New Romney to implement a known procedure. Respectfully we don't know the details of the Controller role on the RHDR. It may be a BR control office type position or it might be a highly safety critical role like the LU service controller or something else in between. Nor do we know any details of his conversation with the Signaller, so I find it difficult to conclude that he was at fault, especially when RAIB have so clearly identified what they believe to be the failings.

    Otherwise this is a classic 'swiss cheese' model where all of the holes have lined up. Each of the failings would not have caused this in isolation, as the other players would have acted as checks and balances. It is only when you have a series of failings that they add up. This demonstrates the risk of relying on 'processes' to control risk rather than equipment that can design it out (such as interlocked signalling).

    Edit: just on a side note I do feel an extra couple of sentences could have made this report much clearer by explaining what should have happened and instead what actually happened.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2019
  11. MellishR

    MellishR Well-Known Member Friend

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    In the absence of full detail of who said what to whom and when, it seems most likely that the signaller said to the trainee at Romney Sands something along the lines of "Because of the changed sequence, you'll need to issue a ticket for train 12". That would have been perfectly correct, as far as it went. The signaller may have added explicitly "after train 5 arrives" or may have taken that as implied.
     
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  12. 5801

    5801 New Member

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    If the message had been as brief and clear as that, the subsequent misunderstanding might not have occurred. Real life is messier.

    Stuart J
     
  13. RalphW

    RalphW Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Friend

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    Wow don't we have a lot of experts on the subject, I wonder how many have actually been invloved and therefore have the facts first hand?
     
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  14. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Well actually, in some cases, we do, or at least experienced operators with a good working knowledge of the principles involved, so at least discussion and speculation is generally informed. You seem rather disdainful of that, yet you're the administrator of a discussion forum - what exactly do you expect? Personally I always find these kinds of debates far more interesting and illuminating than yet another livery debate, or actually even the genuinely useful dissemination of news on things like overhauls, as there's a chance I might actually learn something here, even if it turns out in the end that it wasn't relevant.
     
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  15. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    I appreciate there will be those who are aware of the operating principles involved but when people start speculating as to who said what to whom, it gets rather silly IMO. Unless one was there, one can't possibly know the details of any conversation.
     
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  16. 60017

    60017 Part of the furniture Friend

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    Should have, could have, ifs, whats, maybe. Elements in what are now collectively known as 'The human factors.' Let's be thankful a collision did not occur and that lessons have be learned (for now).
     
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  17. 5801

    5801 New Member

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    Even those of us who were involved in the investigation don't actually know what was said. However, as the report says, there was a conversation, with the best of intentions, but it led to a misunderstanding.

    Action has been taken to minimise the chance of such a misunderstanding happening again, or leading to serious consequences. If the rest of the world also learns from this story, something will have been achieved.

    Stuart J
    RAIB
     
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  18. pmh_74

    pmh_74 Member

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    Over 20 years as a railway signalling engineer and have worked the staff & ticket system on a preserved line. So forgive me for being interested...

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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