Driver injured in mail train crash

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The Independent Online

A train driver stayed at the controls of his engine as a catastrophic brake failure sent it speeding through two red lights and into a line of stationary coal wagons yesterday.

A train driver stayed at the controls of his engine as a catastrophic brake failure sent it speeding through two red lights and into a line of stationary coal wagons yesterday.

The driver of the Royal Mail train, who suffered a broken arm and cuts to his face and upper body, was hailed a hero by his union for staying in his cab instead of running back through the train to safety.

The engine unit of the train hit the back of more than a dozen full coal wagons which were waiting at a red light in Lawrence Hill station, Bristol, shortly after 3.30am.

The engine split from the carriages it was pulling, rode up over the back four coal trucks before coming to rest against a bridge. Fire fighters found the dazed driver injured on the station platform. A second driver, who was in the back power unit of the train, and the driver of the coal train were uninjured.

Brake failure was identified as the most probable cause of the accident and officials said it was unlikely that the driver of the year-old Class 67 diesel engine, pulling the postal service at around 48mph, was to blame for the incident. Investigators were examining a "black box" device removed from the engine.

Phil Bialyk, regional organiser for the RMT union, said the driver had suffered a catastrophic brake failure. "[The driver] said he had tried to apply the brakes and it didn't work and he could not help but go through the red light. He was extremely brave as he could have gone back through the carriages to a safer spot." Mr Bialyk said the driver had boarded the train at Bristol Parkway Station and had reported problems with a brake test when carriages were coupled at that stage.

The collision comes at a time of unprecedented upheaval for the industry as rail companies are still attempting to cope with the aftermath of hurricane-force winds on Monday and the Hatfield derailment on 17 October, and with a public inquiry continuing into safety.

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