Train driver traumatised by death on tracks fights loss of compensation

Nik Douglas is the final driver to receive financial help for depression after a suicide on his line

It was around midday on 31 March 2012 that Nik Douglas’s life changed forever. The 37-year-old train driver was travelling through Northallerton station on the way to Newcastle when he saw a man in his sixties standing alone on the platform.

He thought nothing of the lone figure, turning instead to check the opposite platform. By the time Mr Douglas looked back again, the man was crouching on the tracks in front of his train.

“I remember screaming just before the impact,” Mr Douglas recalls, his face blanching. “I was going at 125 miles an hour because the station wasn’t one we stopped at.”

He slammed on the emergency brake and – in a panic – stamped on the floor beneath his feet, as if trying to brake a car. “I was trying to make it stop quicker, but there was nothing I could do.”

For the next six months he was off work with post-traumatic stress. “When I was on my own I’d burst into tears for no reason, I found sleep hard and I’d have flashbacks during the night and day,” he says. “I could be in a room full of people with a really good party atmosphere but feel alone, isolated. That’s one of the biggest things I remember, feeling alone.”

It has taken two rounds of counselling and ongoing treatment with antidepressants to restore him to some sort of emotional stability. “It changed my life instantly from who I was to what I have become. My wife found it really hard seeing how I’ve changed. Some people aren’t affected, but two years after it happened I’m still not the same person.”

But because of a recent change in the law, Mr Douglas could be the last person in the country to receive compensation for such trauma.

Train drivers can no longer claim compensation for physical and mental injuries in the course of their work, after changes were made to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (Cica) in 2012.  Mr Douglas has just received £4,400 in Cica compensation, as his incident pre-dates the change. “When I did get the payment I thought all that money will go to my wife and kids for everything that they’ve been put through.”

There were 304 deaths on the tracks caused by trespass and suicide last year, slightly up from 297 in 2012. None of the drivers in those incidents will now be eligible for compensation and Mr Douglas is campaigning for the scheme to be reinstated.

“Two of my friends are off work at the minute because of [a death]. It happened to one of my good friends on the Saturday just gone. He was really shaken, it was his second one. Someone jumped off at a station in Duffield near Derby right in front of him. They had to find a doctor on the train because his heart was going so hard he said it felt like it was going to explode.

“The Government has obviously decided that it’s just part and parcel of the job. But I don’t understand why they’d think that because you shouldn’t be expected to come to work and have to deal with this. That compensation was a slight glimmer of something positive that could come out of the situation because there’s very little positive that comes out of anything like that.”

Nick Whitehead at the train drivers’ union, Aslef, said: “Changes to Cica mean drivers can no longer get the compensation they should be entitled to. We urge the Government to think again.”

Mr Douglas tried to go back to work three months after his collision, but soon realised he wasn’t ready. “When I drove past the station where it happened I felt physically sick. I asked my boss to drive the rest of the way back to Newcastle.”

Weeks after returning to work for a second time, he was traumatised by a near miss. “A girl walked off one platform, crossed the tracks in front of me and at the last minute jumped up on to the other platform. I thought I must’ve hit her, But my boss phoned later and said there was CCTV footage from the station of the girl just walking calmly away.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We sympathise with anyone who becomes a victim of crime. Our reforms to the criminal injuries compensation scheme mean taxpayers’ money is focused on supporting victims of the most violent offences.”

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
These photographs released by the University of Maryland Medical Center show images of full face transplant recipient 37-year-old Richard Lee Norris of Hillsville, Virginia
mediaGQ front page features man who underwent full face transplant
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Sport
Moeen Ali wearing the 'Save Gaza' and 'Free Palestine' wristbands on his left arm
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tv
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Battle of the Five Armies trailer released
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Extras
indybest
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Life and Style
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Business Analyst - London - Banking - £400-£450

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Banking - London...

Application Engineer - Flow Metering

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Application ...

Chemical Engineer/Project Coordinator

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Chemical Eng...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on