Train sent on wrong track in signal blunder

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The Independent Online

A signalling blunder sent a commuter train down the wrong track, it was revealed today.

A signalling blunder sent a commuter train down the wrong track, it was revealed today.

Passengers had to alert the driver of the Connex South Eastern train that he was heading in the wrong direction.

But both Connex and Railtrack, the company responsible for signals, said the incident, which happened last night (Thursday), had not endangered the train or the 50 or so passengers aboard.

The mistake came on the day that Paddington station in west London reopened for the first time since the October 5 rail disaster in which a signal passed at danger led to a collision which claimed 30 lives.

In last night's incident, the Connex train was the 8.42pm Charing Cross to Dartford service via Greenwich.

Where the line splits at the North Kent East junction near London Bridge, the driver was signalled to proceed via New Cross when the train should have gone via Greenwich.

Realising they were going the wrong way, passengers contacted the driver via an emergency intercom system.

The driver stopped at New Cross and got back on his intended route by going via Lewisham. But the inadvertent re-routing meant the train did not stop as planned at Greenwich, Deptford, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park stations.

Railtrack said today: "There was no threat to safety. There are four routes to Dartford out of London Bridge and this driver was sent down the wrong route."

The spokesman added: "The train was perfectly protected by the signalling. There was no way there could have been an accident. It was a bit like motorists missing a turning off a motorway. They would not be going against the traffic but just continuing along the road."

A Connex spokesman said: "There was no safety risk. The driver should have stopped at the signal and contacted the signal staff to tell them the routing was wrong. But everyone on board was entirely safe."

The Health and Safety Executive today said it was looking into the incident.

"It is obvious that this should not have happened. We will be ensuring that Connex looks at the history and training records of the train driver and Railtrack looks at the competence of the signaller," said a spokesman.

"There were no passenger safety implications from this incident as the route was correctly signalled for the train and trains are only able to travel in one direction on this stretch of line."