Press release: Report 06/2023: Train overspeeding at Spital Junction

Rail Accident Investigation Branch

July 10
08:59 2023


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At around 10:20 hrs on 17 April 2022, the 08:20 hrs Lumo service from Newcastle to London Kings Cross, passed over three sets of points at Spital Junction at the northern approach to Peterborough station at excessive speed. The maximum permitted speed over the junction is initially 30 mph (48 km/h) reducing to 25 mph (40km/h). The data recorder from the train indicated that the points had been traversed at a speed of 76 mph (122 km/h).

The speed of the train over the junction resulted in sudden sideways movements of the coaches. This led to some passengers being thrown from their seats and luggage falling from the overhead storage, with some passengers receiving minor injuries. Although the train did not derail, and no damage was caused, post-incident analysis has indicated that the train was close to a speed that would have led to it overturning, and it was likely that some of the wheels of the vehicles lifted off the rails.

RAIBs investigation found that the overspeeding was caused by the driver of train 1Y80 not reacting appropriately to the signal indication they had received on approach to the junction. This signal indication was a warning that the train was to take a diverging route ahead which had a lower speed limit than the straight-ahead route which they were expecting to take. The drivers awareness of the signal conditions that could be presented on approach to this junction and their training were not sufficient to overcome this expectation.

RAIB found that Lumo had not assessed and controlled the risk associated with trains being unexpectedly routed on a slower, diverging route at this location and that it had not adequately trained the driver to prepare for this eventuality. Network Rail had also neither assessed nor effectively controlled the risk of overspeeding at locations where there is a long distance between the protecting signal and the junction itself. The investigation also found that half of the passenger injuries were as a result of falling luggage that had been stowed in the overhead luggage racks.

Video summary of the overspeeding incident at Peterborough - link opens in new tab


RAIB has made four recommendations. The first recommendation is for Lumo to review its processes to ensure that it effectively controls the risk of overspeeding at diverging junctions. The second recommendation asks Network Rail to identify junctions where there is a greater potential for overspeeding to occur and to work with operators to share information on the associated risks. The third recommendation asks Network Rail and train operators to consider and implement risk control measures at those junctions identified in the second recommendation. The fourth recommendation is intended to ensure that Lumo minimises the risks from falling luggage on its services.

RAIB has also identified two learning points. These relate to the need for drivers to maintain alertness when approaching junction signals and that train operator emergency plans should specifically include processes to deal with the aftermath of overspeeding incidents.

May 2023 overspeeding incident

At around 13:00 hrs on 4 May 2023, another overspeeding incident occurred at the same location involving a Grand Central service. As a result, RAIB issued urgent safety advice to the industry and announced its intention to investigate this second incident. Further details can be found at paragraph 195 of this report.

Andrew Hall, Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents said:

The overspeeding incident at Spital junction in April 2022, led to a number of minor injuries. Some passengers were thrown from their seats and some hit by luggage falling from overhead racks. However, the outcome could have been much worse, as analysis showed the train was close to overturning. A similar event occurred at the same junction in May 2023, albeit a little slower and involving a train operated by a different train operating company.

As designed, the signal protecting the junction cleared from red to green and displayed an indicator showing which way the junction was set as the train approached. The risk associated with a train then accelerating to an excessive speed over the associated diverging junction, when the driver has an expectation of taking a through route with a much higher permissible speed, had previously been illustrated when a light locomotive derailed in similar circumstances at Bletchley in February 2012. The risk associated with particular junctions and drivers, varies with infrastructure configuration and driver expectation.

It is therefore absolutely necessary that Network Rail and train operating companies work together to mutually understand and sufficiently mitigate risks of this type at specific locations, accounting for the rolling stock and operations involved.

Notes to editors

  1. The sole purpose of RAIB investigations is to prevent future accidents and incidents and improve railway safety. RAIB does not establish blame, liability or carry out prosecutions.

  2. RAIB operates, as far as possible, in an open and transparent manner. While our investigations are completely independent of the railway industry, we do maintain close liaison with railway companies and if we discover matters that may affect the safety of the railway, we make sure that information about them is circulated to the right people as soon as possible, and certainly long before publication of our final report.

  3. For media enquiries, please call 01932 440015.

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