Usually, I am one to play down incidents on the railways, since the media so often does the opposite. But the story of the runaway rail grinding train on the Northern Line did not get the attention it deserved.
This was a remarkable incident which begs a lot of question. Briefly, the train, which had failed, was hooked up to an empty passenger train to get it out of the system when it came loose and hurtled down the Northern Line from Archway to Warren St, a distance of more than 4 miles which it covered in just 13 minutes, suggesting it must have reached around 35 mph at least.
There are numerous questions – why did the train not fail safe? That implies the train was not braked but that seems odd in this health and safety obsessed age. Then why did the tripcocks not stop it? Or was it not fitted with those.
TfL said rather strangely that its line controllers monitored the situation and chose to allow it to run through,while ensuring that all other trains were out of the way. Clearly the line controllers are the heroes of the story because of the way they acted so quickly to ensure other trains were rerouted, but does this suggest that the train could have been stopped? Or does it mean that they chose not to derail it by using points against it? That would, of course have caused major damage.
Sure, the media covered the story, but rather underplayed it. A runaway train in the Tube is a real potential disaster of great magnitude and LU were lucky today, and also fortunate that it has such good staff.