The Rail Accident Investigation Branch has made a number of recommendations following the death of a woman after she leaned out of a train window near Twerton in Bath last December.
28-year-old Bethan Roper was hit on the head by a tree branch while leaning out of a carriage window near Twerton on Saturday 1st December 2018.
The train, a Great Western Railway service from London Paddington to Exeter St David’s, was travelling at approximately 75 mph at the time of the impact.
Ms Roper received significant head injuries, and despite the best efforts from staff and passengers with “extensive medical qualifications and experience”, she was later pronounced dead at Bristol Temple Meads station.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch has now published a detailed report on the fatal incident, which highlighted a number of contributing factors such as inadequate signage near the window of the carriage door and the fact that Network Rail had not undertaken a tree inspection in the area of the accident since 2009.
The 28-year-old was travelling to Penarth via Bristol Temple Meads from Bath Spa station after a shopping trip with a group of friends.
The report says that one of the group opened the window in the carriage vestibule, and at least one other person leant out of the window before Ms Roper.
Witnesses said she had her head out of the window for a few seconds before falling back having sustained a serious head injury.
A toxicology report concluded that Ms Roper’s blood contained 142 milligrams of ethanol per 100 millilitres, nearly twice the UK legal driving limit.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch says the sign on the inside of the door relating to the risk from leaning out of the window did not adequately convey the level of risk to passengers.
Paying tribute after her death, Adrian Roper, Bethan’s father, said: “She enjoyed life to the full whilst working tirelessly for a better world.
“She was also a much-loved sister, daughter, grand-daughter and niece.”
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch has issued a number of recommendations following the incident, and also said lessons can be learned, including the value of undertaking regular tree inspections within the interval specified in Network Rail standards to identify trees in poor health.
The recommendations include:
- Operators of mainline passenger trains reviewing their risk assessments and implement any additional mitigation measures necessary to minimise the likelihood of passengers leaning out of the windows away from stations.
- Operators of heritage railways reviewing their risk assessments for people leaning out and implement any additional mitigation measures necessary to achieve an acceptable level of safety.
- Great Western Railway reviewing its hazard identification process to understand why, prior to 2017, it did not result in identification of the hazard of passengers leaning out of a droplight window, or an assessment of the associated risk. It should take any necessary action to ensure that the possibility of other hazards being overlooked is minimised.
- The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) reviewing its existing guidance to train operators on the design of emergency and safety signs. It should then, as necessary, revise it and prepare new guidance.
The full report can be read on the RAIB website here.