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.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders