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‘Zoned out’ tube driver left station with doors open

Driver “felt under time pressure” to depart the station having heard a timer

11 July, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

DRIVER fatigue may have contributed to a London Underground train travelling for just under a minute with some of its doors open, an investigation has found.

Thirty passengers were on board the Jubilee line train in September last year when it travelled at up to 62km/h – around 40mph – between Finchley Road and West Hampstead stations with 10 of its 28 doors doors open.

No one was injured, but the incident went viral on the internet when footage of the open doors was posted on Twitter.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has handed TfL four recommendations after its probe, which also found the “zoned out” driver’s lack of food could have been factor. Investigators say when the train reached Finchley Road there was a problem with the doors opening and closing.

The driver tried to fix the problem but flicked a switch which bypassed a system that prevent trains leaving the station with their doors open.

The experienced driver then did not notice that some of the doors remained open as it departed. CCTV footage appears to show one passenger attempting to pull a door closed.

The report read: “The train operator stated that he had ‘zoned out’ and made ‘rushed decisions’ when dealing with the door problems at Finchley Road. These are indicators that the sudden transition from a low workload to high workload situation, fatigue and/or low blood sugar levels were probably adversely affecting his capacity to deal with the stress caused by the unusual situation.”

Investigators said there was no evidence that his rostered working hours were a factor, but his sleep pattern possibly was.

The RAIB added: “It is also possible that the train operator’s concentration was adversely affected by low blood sugar levels because he had not eaten anything for around 13 hours before the incident.”

The driver told the RAIB that he “felt under time pressure” to depart the station having heard a timer, and did not want to delay train services. Simon French, chief inspector of rail accidents, said: “We are recommending that London Underground improves the training given to operators, and we think it is particularly important that they get the chance to practise responding to technical faults in a simulated train cab environment.”

Jill Collis, TfL’s director of health, safety and environment, said: “We have worked closely with the RAIB during their investigation, and have already started work on several of their recommendations following an internal report that was completed earlier this year.”

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